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. 

Key points to remember

  • 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 minor (peripheral) vein in the arm or lower leg, which leads to a central vein leading to the heart
  • a doctor will remove a PIC line when they replace it with a semi- permanent catheter in the operating theatre

What is a temporary catheter?

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

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 minor (peripheral) 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 stitched (sutured) in place where the external line starts (the exit site). A doctor or nurse will secure it under a dressing. This will help prevent your child from dragging or pulling on it.

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 falls off, or when the exit site looks mucky or it has moderate ooze
  • a nurse will usually flush the catheter with sterile saline and heparin solution when they change the dressing - this is to keep the catheter clear of blockages
  • the bung on the catheter end is also changed weekly with the dressing changes
  • the catheter clamp on the lumen is always closed when the catheter is not in use

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 do nurses use PIC lines?

When nurses need to put something into the catheter, they will do it in one of two ways:

  • by using a plastic tube to attach a bag of fluid to the external line during treatment –this may last several hours or days
  • by connecting a syringe containing the medicine to the external line and injecting the medicine into the catheter

When is the PIC line removed?

A doctor or nurse will remove a PIC line when:

  • they replace it with a semi-permanent catheter in the operating theatre
  • if the PIC line becomes infected
  • a doctor or nurse can also remove a PIC line on the ward -your child will not need an anaesthetic

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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