Temporary catheter: Pain management

Temporary catheter: Pain management

A peripherally inserted central catheter (known as a PICC or PIC line) is a temporary, short-term central venous catheter sometimes used when your child is in hospital. It is a thin flexible, silicone tube inserted into a peripheral (minor) vein in the arm or lower leg, which leads to a central vein leading to the heart.

What is a temporary catheter?

A peripherally inserted central catheter (known as a PICC or PIC line) is a temporary, short-term central venous catheter sometimes used when your child is in hospital.

It is a thin flexible, silicone tube inserted into a peripheral (minor) vein in the arm or lower leg, which leads to a central vein leading to the heart.

Your child’s oncologist will decide the best time to replace it with a semi-permanent catheter.

Where is the temporary catheter positioned?

Inside the body, the internal catheter runs through a small vein in the chosen limb, usually the arm, and then through a central vein leading to the heart. The external part outside the body is smaller. There is a bung (cap) on the end of the external catheter.

The PIC Line is sutured (stitched) in place where the external line starts (the exit site). It is secured under a dressing.

What about catheter care?

  • a transparent, waterproof, adhesive dressing covers the exit site and the first few inches of the outside catheter. The dressing is changed each week or sooner if it becomes unstuck, or falling off, or when the exit site looks mucky or it has moderate ooze.
  • the catheter is flushed with sterile saline and heparin solution usually at the same time as the dressing is changed. This is to keep the catheter clear of blockages
  • the bung on the catheter end is also changed weekly at the time of the dressing change
  • the catheter clamp on the lumen is always closed when the catheter is not being used

How can pulling or dragging on the external catheter be prevented?

Securing the catheter with a dressing will help prevent your child from dragging or pulling on it.

How is the PIC line used?

When something is to be put into the catheter the nurse at the hospital will do it in one of two ways:

  • a bag of fluid will be attached by a plastic tube to the external line for the treatment period which may be several hours or days
  • a syringe containing the medicine will be connected to the external line and the medicine injected into the catheter quite quickly

When is the PIC line removed?

A PIC line is removed when it is being replaced by a semi- permanent catheter in the operating theatre.

A PICC line needs to be removed when it is infected.

A PICC line can also be removed in the ward without anaesthesia.

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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