You have a central line. This is a long tube (catheter) that goes into a vein in your chest, arm, or groin and ends at your heart. Your central line will carry nutrients and medicine into your body. It can also be used to take blood when you need to have blood tests.
Central line infections are very serious. They can make you sick and increase how long you are in the hospital. Your central line needs special care to prevent infection.
You may have a central line if you:
Anyone who has a central line can get an infection. Your risk is higher if you:
The hospital staff will use aseptic technique when a central line is put in your chest or arm. Aseptic technique means keeping everything as sterile (germ-free) as possible. They will:
Hospital staff should check your central line every day to make sure it is in the right place and to look for signs of infection. The gauze or tape over the site should be changed if it is dirty.
Make sure not to touch your central line unless you have washed your hands.
Tell your nurse if your central line:
You can take a shower when your doctor says it is OK to do so. Your nurse will help you cover your central line when you shower to keep it clean and dry.
If you notice any of these signs of infection, tell your doctor or nurse right away.
Central line-associated bloodstream infection; CLABSI; Peripherally inserted central catheter - infection; PICC - infection; Central venous catheter - infection; CVC - infection; Central venous device - infection
Fishman N, Calfee DP. Prevention and control of health care-associated infections. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 290.
Shapey IM, Foster MA, Whitehouse T, et al. Central venous cather-related bloodstream infections: improving post-insertion catheter care. J Hosp Infect. 2009;71:117-122.
Updated by: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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