A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) is a small, thin, flexible tube (called a catheter) that is placed into a vein in the upper arm by a specially trained registered nurse or another provider. It provides direct entry to a major blood vessel. It is used to reduce the need for insertion of an intravenous (IV) line each time treatment is required. Many people who receive chemotherapy choose to have a PICC if recommended by their treatment team. If you're interested in a PICC, consider this information provided by the infusion center team at Moffitt Cancer Center.
How is a PICC Inserted?
The PICC is placed into a vein in the upper arm using an ultrasound machine to locate a vein. The PICC is threaded up the arm through a large blood vessel that extends into the chest. If you are not allergic to Lidocaine, it will be used to minimize the slight discomfort of this procedure.
After the PICC has been placed, it will be secured, and a dressing applied. It is important that the "tip" or end of the catheter is in the proper place. Tip placement will be confirmed using a special machine or chest x-ray.
This procedure can be performed in about 60 minutes. However, the procedure may take longer in certain situations.
How long can a PICC remain in place?
Unlike an IV catheter, which may be reinserted for each treatment session, a PICC can remain in place for short-term treatment (a few weeks) or long-term treatment (months to a year or more). When it is no longer needed, the PICC can be removed by a registered nurse.
Does a PICC provide any other advantages over an IV catheter?
In addition to streamlining the delivery of chemotherapy medications, a PICC can provide several other benefits as compared to an IV catheter:
- A PICC can also be used for delivering fluids and transfusions, drawing blood for lab testing and injecting dye for PET, MRI, and CT scans.
- A PICC reduces the risk of medications coming into contact with – and possibly irritating the skin.
- A PICC can be used to provide treatments that span several days.