PICC Lines in Neonates

Disclaimer: This fact sheet is for education purposes only. Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for your child.

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What Is a PICC Line?

PICC stands for "peripherally inserted central catheter". It is a soft, flexible, intravenous (I.V.) line, about 20 to30 cm long. The catheter is inserted through a vein in the arm or foot and threaded into one of the major blood vessels leading to the heart. It might also be referred to as a "long line".

Why Does My Baby Require a PICC Line?

A PICC line is ideal for babies requiring IV access for a long time. Your baby may require a PICC line for giving TPN or antibiotics. It reduces the need for lots of needles and cannulas. It can stay in place for many days to weeks.

Will My Baby Need Another IV Cannula?

Even with a PICC line in, an IV cannula might be needed for giving blood or some medications which cannot be given through the PICC line.

How are PICC Lines Inserted?

The PICC line is inserted using a sterile procedure. A large vein is selected – usually in the leg or the arm. It can be challenging at times if the veins are hard to see.

After the PICC line is put in, an x-ray is taken to make sure it is in the right place. The procedure may take up to 30 minutes from preparation to finish in most cases. Your baby will be given pain relief in the form of sucrose during the procedure similar to when placing an IV cannula.

The doctor or nurse will talk to you about the procedure before it begins. Please feel free to ask them if you have any questions.

What Are The Complications?

Though uncommon the complications that can occur are:

  • Infection of the PICC line
  • The PICC line may leak
  • Thrombophlebitis – inflammation of the vein
  • Vascular perforation (very, very rare)

PICC lines are observed carefully during nursing shifts and if any of the above complications are noted, the line is immediately removed.


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