Central Venous Catheters
Central venous catheters are small, flexible tubes placed into large veins for people who require frequent access to the bloodstream. Placement is usually in one of the large veins of the chest or neck, although placement can also be in the groin, if necessary.
Examples of Central Venous Catheters include:
- PICC line (Peripherally inserted central catheter)
- Permcath or Vascath
- Triple Lumen Catheter (TLC) or Central Line
Some central venous catheters typically remain in place for long periods: weeks, months or even longer, while others are for short term use only. A central venous catheter has many possible uses, including:
- Administration of medications such as antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, blood products and other IV-administered drugs
- Administration of fluids and nutritional compounds
- Filtering blood (dialysis)
- Exchanging or removing blood elements (pheresis)
- Multiple blood draws for diagnostic testing
The procedure to place your CVC will be done by an interventional radiologist; a doctor, physician assistant or nurse practitioner with special training in doing this kind of procedure. In radiology, the use of ultrasound guidance and real-time x-ray called fluoroscopy reduce the risks and discomfort associated with these procedures.
Central venous catheters provide several advantages over regular IV lines, which are usually inserted in a small vein in the hand or arm. Central venous catheters avoid problems such as irritation of the vein and blood clots that may occur over time from administering strong medications through small veins.
As with all medical procedures, there are some risks associated with placing a central venous catheter. The most common problems after placing a CVC are:
- Bleeding: Any bleeding is usually minor and does not last long.
- Infection: There is a small risk of infection secondary to placement. You are also at risk for developing an infection from the catheter which would not be related to the insertion.
There are also other less common risks. Your doctor, physician assistant or nurse practitioner will talk with you about these in detail before your procedure. Please make sure all of your questions and concerns are addressed.