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What is a PICC Line and Why Do Patients Need It?

There’s no question that frequent needle sticks either for medication or blood draws can be inconvenient.

It’s perfectly understandable if a patient becomes reluctant especially if the treatment is expected to last for a few weeks or months.

One of the options available as an alternative for such would be the use of a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter, otherwise known as a PICC line.

What is a PICC Line?

A PICC line is a long, thin tube inserted through the veins of a patient’s arm that pass through the larger veins near the heart. A PICC line may also be inserted through the veins in the leg on very rare occasions.

This type of catheter is used to access the large veins in a patient’s chest mainly for giving medication or liquid nutrition and to rid the patient of the pain of needle sticks while reducing the risk of irritation to the arm’s smaller veins.

This apparatus requires extra care and monitoring for possible complications such as blood clots and infection.

A doctor would usually discuss the risks and benefits that come with the use of PICC lines should a patient request for that option.

Who Needs It?

A PICC line is usually recommended for the following scenarios:

Liquid Nutrition, TPN

If the patient’s body is unable or is having difficulty processing nutrients from food due to digestive system issues, a PICC line may be needed for transporting and receiving liquid nutrition.

Infection Treatments

As mentioned, a PICC line is also used to deliver medication which is why it is also recommended for people who are undergoing treatments for infection. This is because antibiotics and antifungal medicines can be given via a PICC line.

It should also be noted that some medicines can irritate the smaller veins and giving them through the PICC line helps reduce that risk. The larger veins in the chest carry more blood, effectively diluting the medicine much faster thereby reducing the risk of injury.

Cancer Treatments

Cancer patients can also benefit from a PICC line because it can also be used to deliver chemotherapy and other cancer-related drugs to the body.


While a PICC line is convenient, it also comes with some possible complications such as the following.

  • PICC line blockage

  • Bleeding

  • Blood clots

  • Infection

  • Nerve injury

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Vein damage

It is also recommended for the patient to contact a doctor immediately should they notice the following signs.

  1. Shortness of breath.

  2. Changes in heartbeat.

  3. Redness, swelling or bruising around the area where the PICC line was inserted.

  4. The length of the catheter sticking out of the arm is getting longer.

Final Thoughts

A PICC line presents patients with a good alternative in receiving medication or liquid nutrition especially if the patient’s pain tolerance to needle sticks is quite low or the patient has small veins making IV access difficult. It can make them feel comfortable especially if the treatment will take quite a while.

The good news is PICC Line Insertion is now included in the list of services SNF Wound Care offers to its contracted facilities. As always, SNF Wound Care never bills a facility or the patient. We only bill health plans and we see all patients regardless of insurance.

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