A percutaneously inserted central catheter (PICC) is a long, very thin, soft plastic tube that is placed in a small blood vessel. This article discusses PICCs in babies.
WHY IS A PICC USED?
The primary reason for a PICC is to deliver fluids and medicine over a long period of time without having to replace an IV often. A regular IV usually lasts only 1 - 3 days before needing to be replaced. A PICC can often stay in for 2 - 3 weeks, or longer. Infants who are very immature, have bowel problems that prevent feeding, or need to take IV medicines for a long time are most likely to benefit from a PICC.
HOW IS A PICC PLACED?
The baby will be given pain medicine. After cleaning the baby's skin with a germ-killing medicine (antiseptic), the health care provider will make a small surgical cut and place a hollow needle into a small vein, usually in the arm or leg. The PICC is moved through the needle into a big vein, with its tip near (but not in) the heart. An x-ray is used to place the needle. The needle is removed after the catheter is placed.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF A PICC?
It may take several attempts to place the PICC. In some cases, it cannot be properly positioned. There is a small risk of infection. The longer the PICC is in place, the greater the risk for infection. Sometimes the catheter may wear away the blood vessel wall, causing IV fluid or medication to leak into nearby areas of the body.
In very rare cases, the wall of the heart can wear away and cause serious bleeding and poor heart function. Also, in very rare cases, the catheter may break inside the blood vessel.
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, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.