What is a PICC line?

A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) is a long tube that provides access to a vein close to the heart. A PICC is usually inserted in patients who require long-term intravenous (IV) medications or other therapies and treatments. Ultrasound is the imaging method used to assist radiologist and radiologist assistants in the placement of PICC lines.

What can you expect during the PICC line procedure?

While you rest in a comfortable position on an exam table, a radiologist or radiologist assistant performs an ultrasound to locate a deep peripheral blood vessel in the upper arm.

Once the insertion site is identified and your arm has been prepped and covered with sterile drapes, a long, narrow tube is inserted into the vein under ultrasound guidance. Fluoroscopy is usually performed during and after the procedure to confirm correct placement of the PICC. A chest x-ray may be taken to confirm placement if fluoroscopy is not utilized during the procedure.

The PICC line stays in place for as long as necessary. Your physician will provide thorough instructions on caring for the PICC line.

How can you prepare for the PICC line procedure?

  • Tell your physician about any allergies, bleeding problems or medications you are taking. Undergo blood tests, if required. Sometimes these tests are performed to determine if you have bleeding or clotting problems.
  • Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes with no metal zippers, snaps or buttons.
  • Leave jewelry at home.

What to expect after your PICC line procedure?

  • Please resume any medications that were being withheld prior to the procedure.
  • Mild soreness is expected at entry site for one or two days.
  • Use arm but AVOID activities that cause discomfort.
  • Do not lift more than 10 pounds with the affected arm.
  • The site should be covered with plastic wrap when showering. DO NOT bathe, swim, or do anything that causes the water to cover the insertion site.
  • The dressing should be changed as directed by your physician and home health agency. Flushing instructions should be followed carefully as directed by your physician, nurse, or home health agency.
  • If you experience any obstruction of flow with your catheter, soft tissue swelling, redness, warmth, or drainage at the insertion site, tubing that splits or leaks, or a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher please report this to your nurse, primary care physician, or the physician who ordered the PICC line.