PICC Line Insertions

What is a PICC Line?

A Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC), also called a PICC line, is a long, thin tube that is inserted through a vein in your arm and passed through to the larger veins near your heart.

With a catheter in place, treatments such as antibiotics can be given through the catheter over a period of time without the need for repeated injections. A catheter can also be used when regular blood samples are needed, for blood transfusions, and other medical conditions that require access to a vein for a period of time.

No preparation is required although it is important to contact us and let us know if you are taking any blood thinning medications or have any drug allergies prior to the appointment.

If your doctor has requested this as an outpatient, you will be admitted to Day Stay under your private health insurance. You will need to present to admissions on Level 1 and our porters will bring you down from the ward on a bed.

The procedure usually takes about an hour.

During the PICC line insertion you’ll lie down on your back with your arm extended to your side. You’ll be awake during the procedure, but local anaesthetic will be used to minimise discomfort.


The area of skin around the site of the venous access will be cleaned. A local anaesthetic is then injected to numb the skin at the site of the venous access.


Using ultrasound guidance, a small incision is made in your skin. A needle is then inserted. Once the vein has been accessed, x-ray images are used to guide various specialised flexible wires, small plastic sheaths and the venous access catheter. The tip of the catheter is placed deep into the central vein and positioned accurately using x-ray images.


Occasionally, x-ray contrast may be injected in the catheter to show the veins.

A porter will return you to the ward.

After a PICC line insertion, there may be some tenderness in the area where the catheter enters your arm. It should go away within a few days.

As you adjust to life with a PICC line, you’ll need to consider:

  • PICC line protection – Your doctor may recommend specific ways to protect the arm with the PICC line. For instance, don’t lift heavy objects and don’t have blood pressure readings taken on the affected arm. Avoid submerging the PICC line in water.
  • PICC line care – A nurse or other provider will show you how to care for your PICC line. This might involve checking the area daily for signs of infection and flushing the line with solution weekly to keep it clear from clogs. It is likely your ward nurse will take care of this for you.
  • PICC line covers – You’ll need to cover your PICC line when you take a shower, as the area shouldn’t get wet. Your nurse will provide a cover.

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