Central venous catheters

Central venous catheters

A central venous catheter is a device which provides entry from outside the body to a large central vein leading directly into the heart. It is used to administer chemotherapy and other medications, nutritional fluids, intravenous fluids and blood products. It can also be used to withdraw samples of blood for testing.

What is a central venous catheter (CVC)?

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

A CVC is used to administer chemotherapy and other medications, nutritional fluids, intravenous fluids and blood products. It can also be used to withdraw samples of blood for testing. A CVC remains in place for the duration of treatment, except for a peripherally inserted one which is a temporary catheter.

There are two types of central venous catheter:

  1. External catheter: Hickman™; Broviac™; Cook™; PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter)
  2. Subcutaneous port: Port-a-cath™; Mediport™ ; Powerport

For more information about the different types of central venous catheters, see:

Which CVC will be used for my child?

The device type to be used for your child will be determined by your child's age and treatment type. The oncology team will discuss with you which one will suit 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?

External and subcutaneous catheters are put in 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:

A peripherally inserted central catheter (known as PICC or PIC line) may be put in under a general anaesthetic in the operating theatre and it may also be put in on the ward with the use of a local anaesthetic.

Is it painful afterwards?

There may be some pain during the first one or two days after insertion. Analgesics (pain relieving medicine) will be prescribed by the anaesthetist or another doctor to ensure your child is comfortable.

You can read about pain in the following fact sheets:

All the information in the Childhood cancer section of this website has 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 National Child Cancer Network Clinical Leader.

This page last reviewed 08 March 2013.
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