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A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) is a soft, flexible tube that runs under your skin from a vein, usually in your arm, to a large vein near your heart. One end of the catheter stays outside your body. A PICC can safely stay in your vein 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 you will not be stuck with a needle every time. The end of the PICC will have 1, 2, or 3 lines depending on what is best for you.
Blood for a lab test is not normally taken through the PICC. A healthcare provider with extra PICC care training can take a blood sample, if needed.
You may feel a little pain when your healthcare provider numbs your arm. Your healthcare provider will then thread the catheter up a vein in your arm to a larger vein. The healthcare provider 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 2. Place a warm pack (make sure it’s not too hot and cover it with a towel) on your upper arm above the PICC. This will help with any soreness or discomfort from the PICC. You can use the warm pack for short periods for the first 24 hours after you get the PICC. If you still have soreness or discomfort after 24 hours, talk to your doctor or nurse.
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.
Since the PICC is in one of your arms, you won't be able to change the dressing on your own. You'll need someone to help you change the dressing. The healthcare provider who ordered your PICC should arrange for home care or an outpatient clinic to do your dressing changes.
Your PICC dressing should be changed at least once a week. If the dressing gets loose, wet, or dirty, it must be changed more often to prevent infection.
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: 8/3/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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