Understanding your Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC)
What is a PICC Line?
A PICC line is a thin flexible hollow tube placed
in a vein in your arm, usually above the elbow.
It is about 18 to 24 inches long and goes into the
large vein near your heart. There will be one,
two, or three lumens (IV access lines) at the end
of the catheter. This is where your medicine will
be given and blood for lab tests can be drawn.
Why would a person need a PICC Line?
Common reasons for having a PICC line
ξ To give IV medicines over a long period
of time because an IV catheter can be in
a large vein for a longer time than in a
small vein. This would be for medicines
like antibiotics and chemotherapy.
ξ To give IV medicines after hospital
discharge. You can be more active and
receive IV medicines at home.
ξ To rapidly deliver large amounts of fluid
ξ To deliver nutrition directly into the
blood when food or liquids cannot be
given through the mouth, stomach, or
What are the risks of a PICC Line?
Some of the possible risks of a PICC line may
ξ Bleeding: Bleeding can happen at the
time the PICC line is placed. There is
usually a small amount bleeding that
typically stops by itself.
ξ Blocking: Blood clots may begin to form
in the catheter. Regular flushing of the
PICC line usually keeps the clots from
blocking the tube. If the PICC line
becomes blocked, it must be cleaned out
by your health care provider.
ξ Infection: Any tube going into the body
can make it easier for germs from the
skin to get into the bloodstream. A strict
sterile protocol (procedure) is followed
when inserting the PICC line. This is
followed by strict care in cleaning and
ξ Securement: Your catheter is held in
place by a special device. This device
locks the catheter in place to keep the
catheter from coming out.
ξ Antimicrobial Gel: Around the catheter
insertion site (where it enters your skin),
there is an antimicrobial gel. This helps
to keep your line from getting infected
from bacteria on your skin.
ξ Transparent Dressing: Your PICC Line
will be covered with a protective
dressing to help keep your line from
PICC Line Care:
How your PICC line will be cared for in the
ξ Anything that touches or goes into your
PICC line will be sterile.
ξ Blood pressures will not be taken on the
arm with the PICC line.
ξ The nurse will change your dressing
every 7 days. The dressing could be
changed more often if the dressing
becomes wet, soiled, or loose.
ξ The nurse will look at your PICC line
every 8 hours to check the dressing
condition. The nurse will also look for
signs of infection such as: redness,
tenderness or swelling.
ξ You will be able to shower. The PICC
line will have to be covered with plastic
to make sure it does not get wet. If the
dressing becomes wet, tell your nurse
right away so the dressing can be
ξ Your PICC line will be taken out as soon
as it is no longer needed. The PICC line
will not be kept in for convenience.
How you can help protect your PICC line:
ξ Hand Washing: If your nurse or health
care staff does not wash their hands and
use gloves when handling your PICC
line, please ask them to do so.
ξ Disinfection: If your nurse or health
care staff does not “scrub the hub” (see
diagram above) with an alcohol wipe for
15 seconds before attaching a syringe or
other tubing, please ask them to do so.
ξ Dressing: If the bandage comes off or
the edges of the dressing curl, becomes
wet or dirty, tell your nurse or doctor
ξ Clamp: When not in use, the PICC line
clamp must be in the closed position.
ξ Signs of Infection: Let your nurse or
doctor know if the area around your
catheter is sore or red.
ξ PICC Displacement: Let your nurse or
doctor know if the length of catheter
outside the skin is getting longer.
ξ Removal: Ask when the PICC line can
be taken out. The sooner the PICC comes
out, the less chance you have of getting
The Spanish Version of this Health Facts for You is #6621
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you have any
questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This is not medical
advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each person’s health needs are
different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using this information. If you have an
emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 8/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved.
Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5093