Central venous catheters

Central venous catheters

A central venous catheter is a device that allows health professionals to give medicines, fluids and blood products into a large central vein leading directly into the heart.

Key points to remember

  • a central venous catheter (CVC) is sometimes called a 'central line'
  • it is a device that allows health professionals to give medicines, fluids and blood products into a large central vein leading directly into the heart

What is a central venous catheter (CVC)?

This page is part of a whole section about childhood cancer.

A central venous catheter (CVC) (sometimes called a 'central line') is a device that provides entry from outside the body to a large central vein leading directly into the heart.

Doctors and nurses use a CVC to give chemotherapy and other medicines, nutritional fluids, intravenous fluids and blood products. Doctors and nurses can also use to withdraw samples of blood for testing. A CVC remains in place for the duration of treatment unless it is a temporary catheter.

There are 2 types of central venous catheter:

External catheter

  • Hickman
  • Roviac
  • Cook
  • PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter)

Subcutaneous port

  • Port-a-cath
  • Mediport
  • Powerport

Which CVC will my child have?

The device type will depend on your child's age and type of treatment. Your child's healthcare team will talk to you about which one will suit your child best.

Ask your nurse for details about the CVC selected for your child.

Is it painful to have a CVC or PICC inserted or removed?

A doctor or nurse will put in external and subcutaneous catheters under a general anaesthetic in the operating theatre. Your child will be asleep and will feel nothing while the insertion procedure is taking place.

See Surgery for childhood cancer: Does surgery hurt?

A doctor or nurse may also put a peripherally inserted central catheter (known as PICC or PIC line) in under a general anaesthetic in the operating theatre. A doctor or nurse may also put it in on the ward while using a local anaesthetic.

Is it painful afterwards?

There may be some pain during the first 1 or 2 days after insertion. An anaesthetist or another doctor may prescribe pain-relieving medicine (Analgesics) to ensure your child is comfortable.

All the pages in the childhood cancer section of this website have been written by health professionals who work in the field of paediatric oncology. They have been reviewed by the members of the National Child Cancer Network (NZ). Medical information is authorised by the clinical leader of the National Child Cancer Network.

This page last reviewed 05 October 2018.
Email us your feedback


On this page