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.