Central Line Inserted Central Catheter
A central catheter is a long, thin tube that is inserted into a large vein. A central catheter is used to deliver medication, nutrition, IV fluids, and chemotherapy.
There are different types of central catheters, including:
- Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC line)—The catheter is threaded through a vein in the arm until it reaches the larger vein close to the heart.
- Non-tunneled central catheter—It is inserted in a large vein in the neck or leg; the tube end is outside of the skin.
- Tunneled central catheter—It is inserted in the neck vein and tunneled under the skin. The end of the catheter is sticking out from under the skin, usually below the collarbone.
- Port catheter—It is inserted in a shoulder or neck vein. The port is under the skin, and the catheter is tunneled into the central vein. The port is accessed by putting a needle through the skin directly into the port.
Veins in the Arm
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Central catheters are inserted when patients need:
- Long-term medication or fluids
- Nutrition, but cannot get it through the digestive system
- Repeated blood draws
- Blood transfusions
- IV medications when arm veins are difficult to access
A central catheter is commonly inserted by special types of doctors called interventional radiologists or vascular surgeons. Once the line is in, it can be used for weeks to months.
Last reviewedAugust 2013by Marcin Chwistek, MD; Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.