Peripherally inserted central catheter

Peripherally inserted central catheters (PICCs), often incorrectly tautologically termed PICC lines, are a type of central venous catheter predominantly used amongst oncology patients and those with chronic diseases (e.g. cystic fibrosis).

They offer the ability to have long-term central venous access without the need to have a surgically or radiologically-inserted tunnelled central venous catheter (e.g. Hickman catheter) or chest/brachial port.


  • central venous access required for long-term IV administration of medication (e.g. chemotherapy or antibiotics) or parenteral nutrition
  • peripheral access with standard IV cannulae is difficult or impossible


  • basilic and brachial veins are most commonly used; preprocedure ultrasound can be performed to identify an appropriately-sized vessel and ensure it is clot-free
  • sterile preparation and drape; ensure tourniquet is tight
  • subcutaneous infiltration of local anesthetic (e.g. lidocaine)
  • ultrasound-guided venous puncture followed by guidewire insertion; release the tourniquet
  • fluoroscopy to ensure guidewire position is venous
  • small skin incision at the puncture site
  • exchange puncture needle for peel-away sheath
  • removal of guidewire and insertion of PICC under fluoroscopic guidance to ensure tip is in an appropriate position (varies from institution to institution)
  • removal of the peel-away sheath
  • flush, secure and dress PICC
  • fluoroscopic spot acquisition/chest x-ray in inspiration to document correct position


  • infection, e.g. catheter- or wound-related (most common)
  • tip migration
  • deep vein thrombosis
  • periprocedural
    • hemorrhage
    • arrhythmia
    • arterial puncture: less common with image guidance
  • malposition: less common with image guidance
    • beware of anatomical variants such as a left SVC
  • line fracture/embolization or accidental withdrawal
  • allergic reaction
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