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 your 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 a vein in your 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. The exit site may be a little sore for a day or two. You can take over-the-counter pain medicine, such as Tylenol or Advil, for pain control.
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.
A central line must be flushed every day to keep it clear of blood and prevent clotting. If it ends in more than one line (lumen), flush them in the same order each time. Depending on the type of central line you have, you will flush it with either heparin or saline solution. Your doctor or nurse will probably give you supplies and instructions on how to flush it. A nurse may come to your home to help you at first.
You will usually lie down when you flush the line. This helps prevent air from getting into your vein.
You need to change the cap on each lumen every 5 to 7 days, or anytime it is leaking.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:
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Current as of: March 20, 2017
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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