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Percutaneously inserted central catheter - infants

A percutaneously inserted central catheter (PICC) is a long, very thin, soft plastic tube that is put into a small blood vessel. This article addresses PICCs in babies.

WHY IS A PICC USED?

A PICC is used when a baby needs IV fluids or medicine over a long period of time. Regular IVs only last 1 to 3 days and need to be replaced. A PICC can stay in for 2 to 3 weeks or longer.

PICCs are often used in premature babies who cannot feed because of bowel problems or who need IV medicines for a long time.

HOW IS A PICC PLACED?

The health care provider will:

  • Give the baby pain medicine.
  • Clean the baby's skin with a germ-killing medicine (antiseptic).
  • Make a small surgical cut and place a hollow needle into a small vein in the arm or leg.
  • Move the PICC through the needle into a larger (central) vein, putting its tip near (but not in) the heart.
  • Take an x-ray to place the needle.
  • Remove the needle after the catheter is placed.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF HAVING A PICC PLACED?

  • The health care team may take several tries to place the PICC. In some cases, the PICC cannot be properly positioned and a different therapy will be needed.
  • There is a small risk for infection. The longer the PICC is in place, the greater the risk.
  • Sometimes, the catheter may wear away the blood vessel wall. IV fluid or medicine can leak into nearby areas of the body.
  • Very rarely, the PICC can wear away the wall of the heart. This can cause serious bleeding and poor heart function.
  • Very rarely, the catheter may break inside the blood vessel.

Alternative Names

PICC - infants; PQC - infants; Pic line - infants; Per-Q cath - infants

References

Santillanes G, Claudius I. Pediatric vascular access and blood sampling techniques. In: Roberts J, ed. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 19.

United States Centers for Disease Control Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. 2011 guidelines for the prevention of intravascular catheter-related infections. www.cdc.gov/hicpac/BSI/02-bsi-summary-of-recommendations-2011.html. Accessed February 4, 2016.

Update Date 11/3/2015