Top of the page
A central venous catheter (CVC) is a thin, flexible tube. It's also called a central line. CVCs are used when your child needs to receive medicine, fluids, nutrients, or blood products for up to several weeks or more. The fluids are put through the CVC so that they move quickly into your child's bloodstream. The same line can be used for a while, so your child isn't poked with a needle every time.
The point where the CVC leaves the skin is called the exit site. Usually about 30 centimetres (12 inches) of the line stays outside of the body. But sometimes the line is completely under the skin. The line may have two or three ends so your child can get more than one medicine at a time. These ends are called lumens. The end of each lumen is covered with a cap.
These signs include pain, tenderness, swelling, drainage, pus, redness, and warmth at or near the exit site.
When your child showers, cover the site with something waterproof, such as plastic wrap. Be sure to cover both the exit site and the central line cap(s).
Remind your child not to play with the line or touch the open end of the line when the cap is off. You may need to repeat the reminder a few times.
It's important to keep your child's central line dry for the first 72 hours after it's placed. Don't let your child exercise until your doctor says it's okay.
If your child has a gauze dressing, change it every 48 hours. If it's a clear plastic dressing, change it every 5 days. Also change the dressing if it is damp, bloody, loose, or dirty. The doctor may give you more directions for when to change the dressing.
Be sure you have all the supplies ready. These include medical tape, a surgical mask, medical gloves, the dressing, an applicator, and skin-protecting swabs. The names and brands of the items will vary. The doctor or nurse may give you specific instructions for changing the dressing.
Dry them with paper towels.
Peel the dressing toward the central line, not away from it. You may need to use an adhesive remover if the dressing doesn't come off easily.
Look for redness, swelling, drainage, tenderness, or warmth. If you notice any of these, call the doctor.
Use the applicator the doctor gave you, or use alcohol and swabs. Clean in an up-and-down or side-to-side motion. When you have finished, let the area dry for about 30 seconds.
Take the gauze or remove the backing from the dressing the doctor gave you. Place it over the site.
Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter C205 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Your Child's Central Venous Catheter: Changing the Dressing".
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Heather Quinn MD - Family Medicine & Thomas M. Bailey MD - Family Medicine
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
©2006-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.