A central venous line is a long, soft, plastic tube that is put into a large vein in the chest.
WHY IS A CENTRAL VENOUS LINE USED?
A central venous line is most often put in when a baby cannot get a percutaneous inserted central catheter (PICC) or midline central catheter (MCC). A central venous line can be used to give nutrients or medicines to a baby. It is only put in when babies need IV nutrients or medicines for a long time.
HOW IS A CENTRAL VENOUS LINE PLACED?
The central venous line is put in at the hospital. The health care provider will:
- Give the baby pain medicine.
- Clean the skin on the chest with a germ-killing solution (antiseptic).
- Make a small surgical cut in the chest.
- Put in a small metal probe to make a narrow tunnel under the skin.
- Put the catheter through this tunnel, under the skin, into a vein.
- Push the catheter in until the tip is close to the heart.
- Take an x-ray to make sure the central venous line is in the right place.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF A CENTRAL VENOUS LINE?
- There is a small risk for infection. The longer the central venous line is in, the greater the risk.
- Blood clots can form in the veins leading to the heart.
- The catheters can wear away the blood vessel wall.
- IV fluids or medicine can leak into other parts of the body. This is rare, but this can cause serious bleeding, breathing problems, and problems with the heart.
If the baby has any of these problems, the central venous line may be taken out. Talk to your baby's provider about the risks of a central venous line.
CVL - infants; Central catheter - infants - surgically placed
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Guidelines for the prevention of intravascular catheter-related infections, 2011. www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/BSI/index.html. Updated October 2017. Accessed September 26, 2019.
Denne SC. Parenteral nutrition for the high-risk neonate. In: Gleason CA, Juul SE, eds. Avery's Diseases of the Newborn. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 69.
Pasala S, Storm EA, Stroud MH, et al. Pediatric vascular access and centeses. In: Fuhrman BP, Zimmerman JJ, eds. Pediatric Critical Care. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 19.
Santillanes G, Claudius I. Pediatric vascular access and blood sampling techniques. In: Roberts J, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 19.
Review Date 9/29/2019
Updated by: Kimberly G. Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.