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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 doctor or nurse 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 big 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 of 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 medication 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.

Information

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 doctor or nurse 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 big 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 of 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 medication 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

Update Date 10/29/2013