Skip to Content

PICC Line Placement

What Is a PICC Line?

A Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter, or “PICC line,” is a thin, long, soft-plastic tube that functions as an intravenous (IV) line. A PICC line allows medications and fluids to be administered to patients on a frequent basis and can remain in place for as long as IV therapy is needed.

Long-term central access to veins is essential in the management of patients with cancer, infection, and many other conditions in which repeated administration of anti-cancer drugs, antibiotics, blood products, IV fluids, or nutrients is needed. A PICC line is a safe and effective alternative to other devices used for venous access. With proper care and maintenance, a PICC line may remain in place for long periods of time with minimal risk of complications, ideal for patients with chronic diseases requiring long-term IV therapy.

PICC lines are usually inserted in the upper arm, which is cleaner than most sites where central venous lines are inserted such as the neck or groin. Use of a cleaner insertion site significantly reduces the risk of infection, with PICC lines requiring replacement less often than most other devices.

Using PICC lines to draw blood samples for testing is another benefit. Repeated skin pricks can be avoided, reducing the potential for infection and reducing pain.

How Should I Prepare?

You will be asked not to eat for 2 hours prior to the procedure. Please arrive for your procedure with a responsible adult who can drive you home.

What Should I Expect?

The procedure is performed by a certified technologist specializing in vascular interventional radiology. Using ultrasound and fluoroscopic (X-ray) guidance, the technologist will locate the large veins in the upper arm, cleanse the arm, and cover the area with a sterile drape to prevent infection. The technologist will then place a tourniquet on the arm and apply a local anesthetic to numb the area where the PICC line will be inserted. Using ultrasound and fluoroscopic (X-ray) guidance, the PICC line will be inserted, guided into the vein near the heart, and secured in the proper location. The technologist will then cover the insertion area with a clear sterile dressing and pressure bandage.

Most patients feel little or no discomfort during this procedure. After being monitored for a short time, you will be released with discharge instructions. The entire procedure usually takes about 45-60 minutes.

For your safety and the protection of others, we do not allow anyone other than patients in our exam rooms.

Are There Potential Side Effects or Complications?

Significant complications related to PICC line insertion are very uncommon. The primary risks associated with this procedure include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Tissue damage at the insertion site

After the PICC line has been inserted, you should call your doctor or healthcare provider immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Worsening pain in the arm or at the insertion site
  • Warmth, redness, or swelling of the arm or insertion site
  • Excessive bright red bleeding at the insertion site
  • Fever
  • Tear or break in the PICC line
  • Continuous alarm of the IV pump, even after flushing the catheter
  • Leakage of IV fluid around the insertion site

How Do I Get the Results?

A final report describing the procedure will be sent to your doctor or healthcare provider.

Reports are also available on the MyRAD Patient Portal

Patient Education Video