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 frequently replace an IV. A regular IV usually lasts only 1 - 3 days before needing to be replaced. A PICC can often be kept in for 2 - 3 weeks, or longer. Infants most likely to benefit from a PICC include those who are very immature, who have bowel problems that prevent feeding, or who need to take IV medicines for a long time.
HOW IS A PICC PLACED?
The baby will be given pain medicine. 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 to a big vein near (but not in) the heart. Its position is determined by an x-ray. 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 the 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. In rare cases, the catheter may break inside the blood vessel.