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Central venous line - infants

A central venous line (CVL) is a long, soft, plastic tube that is put into a large vein in the chest.

Why is a CVL used?

A CVL is usually put in when a baby cannot get a percutaneous inserted central catheter (PICC). A CVL 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 CVL placed?

The CVL is put in at the hospital. The nurse or doctor will:

  1. Give the baby pain medicine
  2. Clean the skin on the chest with a germ-killing solution (antiseptic)
  3. Make a small surgical cut in the chest
  4. Put in a small metal probe to make a narrow tunnel under the skin
  5. Put the catheter through this tunnel, under the skin, into a vein
  6. Push the catheter in until the tip is close to the heart
  7. Take an x-ray to make sure the CVL is in the right place

What are the risks of a CVL?

  • There is a small risk of infection. The longer the CVL is in, that 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 CVL may be taken out. Talk to your baby's doctor about the risks of a CVL.

Alternative names

CVL - infants; Central catheter - infants - surgically placed

Update Date: 10/29/2013

Updated by: Kimberly G Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Associate 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, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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