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A central venous catheter (CVC) is a thin, flexible tube. It's also called a central line. CVCs are used when you need to receive medicine, fluids, nutrients, or blood products for several weeks or more. The fluids are put through the CVC so that they move quickly into the bloodstream. The line can be used many times, so you are not poked with a needle every time.
A CVC is put through the skin into a vein, often in the neck, chest, arm, or groin. 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 CVC is completely under the skin. The line may have two or three ends so that you can get more than one medicine at a time. These ends are called lumens. The end of each lumen is covered with a cap.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
If you just got your CVC, do not let the exit site get wet for 72 hours. Avoid exercise until your doctor says it is okay.
If you have a dressing, change it as directed by your healthcare team. Also change your dressing if it is damp, bloody, loose, or dirty. Your doctor may also give you directions for when to change the dressing.
Be sure you have all your supplies ready. These include medical tape, a surgical mask, sterile gloves, your dressing, an applicator, and skin-protecting swabs. The names and brands of the items will vary. Your doctor or nurse may give you specific instructions for changing the dressing. Here are basic tips for how to change the dressing. You may need help changing it.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
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Adaptation Date: 11/30/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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