A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) is a soft, flexible tube that runs under your skin from a vein in your arm to a large vein near your heart. One end of the catheter stays outside your body. It is a type of central venous catheter, or central venous line. You may have it for weeks or months.
A PICC is used to give you medicine, blood products, nutrients, or fluids. A PICC makes doing these things more comfortable for you because they are put directly into the catheter. So you will not be stuck with a needle every time. A PICC also can be used to draw blood for tests. The end of the PICC sometimes has two or three openings so that you can get more than one type of fluid or medicine at a time.
Your doctor may give you medicine to make you feel relaxed. You may feel a little pain when your doctor numbs your arm. Your doctor will then thread the catheter up a vein in your arm to a larger vein. You will not feel any pain. The doctor may use stitches or other devices to hold the catheter in place where it exits your arm.
After the procedure, the site may be sore for a day or two.
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.
Since the PICC is in one of your arms, you will not be able to change the dressing on your own. You will need someone to help you change the dressing using the same instructions that your doctor or nurse gave you.
Your PICC dressing should be changed at least once a week. If the dressing becomes loose, wet, or dirty, it must be changed more often to prevent infection. Your doctor may also give you instructions for when to change the dressing.
Be sure you have all your supplies ready. These include medical tape, a surgical mask, sterile gloves, and your dressing kit. 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 if:
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 L935 in the search box to learn more about "Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC): Care Instructions".
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
©2006-2017 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
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.