Monday, June 30, 2014

What is a PICC line?

I am currently receiving IV medication at home while I wait for a heart transplant. It is being delivered via a special type of IV called a PICC line. 

PICC stands for peripherally inserted central catheter. It is an IV that is inserted in the hospital by a specially trained nurse. It differs from a regular IV because it is longer. The tip of the catheter ends at the entrance to the heart.

The major risks of having a PICC line is infection and clot. It is covered with a sterile dressing that is usually changed once per week. It's very important to be careful with the tubing and keep it very clean. If you have a PICC line, you will be instructed how to take care of it. 

Most PICC lines have 2 tubes, called lumens, at the end. One of them can be used to infuse medication and the other one can be used to draw blood. Drawing blood off the PICC line is a nice feature because it means you won't need to be stuck for lab draws. Usually a nurse will draw the blood off the line. You may need to make arrangements for the blood draws because most lab techs won't be able to use the line. 

The line will also need to be flushed at least once per day. This is a simple procedure that you will learn how to do. It is important to flush the line to prevent clotting. If you notice that the line isn't flushing as well then you need to call your provider. The line may need to be changed.

If you have a PICC line, it is important to watch for signs of infection. These can be fever, feeling poorly or redness around the insertion site of the PICC. If you notice these things it is very important to notify your health care provider because you will need prompt treatment. An untreated infection can make you very sick. 

PICCs can be a nice alternative to IVs and allow you to receive medication at home. With care, the lines can last a long time. Take good care of your PICC line and it will take care of you. :)

My PICC line


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