A Central Venous Catheter (CVC) or Central Line is an intravenous line that is used for giving the patient fluids and / or medications. It may be used when the patient’s veins in the arms are difficult to access or when certain medications or nutrients need to be given that cannot be administered into the smaller veins found in the arm.
Google image of CVC
How Does It Work?
A CVC is inserted into one of the larger veins of the body. These are found in the neck (jugular vein), the front of the shoulder (subclavian vein) or the groin (femoral vein). In some patients, a CVC may be inserted into the vein of the elbow and advanced into the subclavian vein, this type of catheter is known as a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter or PICC line.
When a CVC is inserted, the patient is usually laid fairly flat and a local anaesthetic is used to numb the area before inserting the catheter into the vein. After a neck, shoulder or elbow central line is inserted, the patient will have a chest x-ray to make sure that the line is in the right place.
For a more detailed explanation of how a CVC is inserted please use this link.
How Long Will It Be Used For?
The length of time that a CVC stays in place can vary and may depend upon the patient’s condition. The ICU staff monitors CVC closely, watching particularly for any signs of infection. The CVC will be replaced if there are signs of infection or removed when it is no longer required.
Are There Any Complications?
All Intensive Care interventions and procedures carry a degree of potential risk even when performed by skilled and experienced staff. Please discuss these issues with the medical and nursing staff who are caring for the patient.
Of course, if you have any questions or concerns, please discuss them with the ICU nurses and doctors.
Please note these translations are based on an earlier version of this description
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The information contained on this page is general in nature and therefore cannot reflect individual patient variation. In addition it reflects Australian intensive care practice which may differ from that of other countries. It is meant as a back up to specific information which will be discussed with you by the Doctors and Nurses caring for your loved one. ICCMU attests to the accuracy of the information contained here BUT takes no responsibility for how it may apply to an individual patient. Please refer to the full disclaimer.
Central Venous Catheter Version 1.2
First published June 2004
Reviewed November 2011
Reviewed by Kay Johnson CNS ICCMU