A central venous catheter is a thin, flexible tube. It is also
called a central line or C-line. Central lines are used when you need to
receive medicine, fluids, nutrients, or blood products for several weeks or
more. The fluids are put through the central line so that they move quickly
into the bloodstream. The line can be used many times, so you are not stuck
with a needle every time.
A central line is put through the skin
into a vein, often in the neck or chest, and threaded through the vein until
the tip of the catheter reaches a large vein near the heart. The point where
the central line leaves the skin is called the exit site. Usually about 30 centimetres of the line stay outside of the body. Sometimes the line has 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.
Sometimes the central line is completely under the skin. The central line
may also be put in through the arm.
You will feel a little pain
when the doctor numbs the area. You will not feel any pain when the central
line is put in. You may be a little sore for a day or two. You can take
over-the-counter pain medicine, such as Tylenol or Advil, for relief.
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 call line
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
central line, do not let the exit site get wet for 72 hours. Avoid exercise
until your doctor says it is okay.
If you have a gauze dressing,
change it every 48 hours. If you have a clear plastic dressing, change it every
5 days. 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.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call
Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek
immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to
contact your doctor or nurse call line if:
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter Q250 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Your Central Venous Catheter: Changing the Dressing."
Current as of:
November 28, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
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