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PICC line - Securacath

Information leaflet for patients having a PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter) put in at  Velindre Cancer Centre.

This leaflet provides information for patients having a PICC line.  It will explain what a PICC line is, and what to expect on the day that the PICC line is placed.  It will tell you how your PICC line is cared for and what you need to look out for.  Contact telephone numbers are at the end of the leaflet.

What is a PICC line?

A PICC line is a long hollow tube that is inserted into a vein in your upper arm and travels along the vein in your shoulder and chest until it reaches the large vein above your heart.  It is used to give treatments such as chemotherapy, antibiotics and intravenous fluids.  It can also be used to take blood samples.  A specially trained nurse will place the PICC in the X-ray department in Velindre or the Macmillan unit in Prince Charles hospital if you live in that area.

A PICC line is also called a central line.  

Why do I need a PICC line?

You need a PICC line for one of the following reasons:

  • The type of treatment that your doctor has prescribed you can only be given through a central line 
  • The PICC line can be used instead of placing needles into your arms which can be painful
  • You may need treatment which needs to be given to you at home through a special pump
  • The small veins in your arms or back of your hands may have become sore after previous treatments

How long does my PICC line stay in?

Your PICC line can stay in until your treatment has finished as long as it is free from complications. 

Will I need any tests before the PICC line goes in?

We need to know if you take blood thinning drugs such as warfarin, clopidogrel or heparin injections such as Fragmin.  If you take warfarin you will need to arrange an INR blood test the day before your PICC line is placed.  If you take warfarin please ring 029 2061 5888 and ask for the PICC clinic in X-ray (all days except Tuesdays – on Tuesday please ask for the treatment helpline) at least two days before your PICC line appointment. If you take blood thinning injections we will need to advise you when to take it. We will ring you one or two days before the PICC – if we have not managed to contact you, please ring the above number.

We need to test you for MRSA (a bacteria that many people carry harmlessly on their skin) before your PICC line is placed.  We will take a swab of your groin and nose.  Most people will be negative. If you are positive we can give you creams and lotions to reduce the risk of your PICC becoming infected with MRSA.  If an MRSA screen has not been taken, please ring 02920615888 and ask for the PICC clinic.

If you are unable to attend for your PICC appointment please telephone 0290 615888 and ask for the PICC clinic.

Can I eat and drink as normal?

You can eat breakfast or have a light lunch.  You can drink normally.

What do I need to wear?

You can wear your normal, everyday clothes.  You may be asked to change into a gown. We will ask you to remove any jewellery from your neck.  Women will be asked to remove their bra if it is under-wired before the procedure – therefore try to wear a bra without under wires if possible. 

What happens on the day of my appointment?

You can bring one relative to come into the room with you. We will give you information about the procedure and discuss possible complications.  We will then ask you to sign a consent form.  

The nurse will wear a mask, gown, hat and gloves when placing your PICC line to make sure that everything is kept as clean as possible.  We will also use drapes to make sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.

We will give you an anaesthetic injection into a small area of your arm before the PICC line goes in, the procedure is not painful.  Once the PICC is in, you will have an X-ray to make sure it is in the right place. 

The appointment should take less than 2 hrs.

How does the PICC stay in place?

The PICC is not stitched in place.  It is kept in place by a device called a securacath (see picture below). It anchors the PICC under the skin.  The securacath will be placed when the PICC goes in and removed when the PICC comes out. A clear dressing will be placed over the PICC and the securacath device.  A loose sleeve (tubigrip) will be placed over your arm to protect it.         
Sometimes, you can feel some irritation from the securacath anchors which are beneath the skin for a few days after the PICC has gone in.  This is normal and we expect a settling in period. If the area is painful, please ring Velindre for advice.

Can I drive home after the PICC has been put in?

You can drive home after having your PICC line placed as long as you feel fit and able to drive.
What problems could happen with the PICC line when I’m at home?
Your PICC nurse will discuss the possible complications in more detail before you sign your consent form.  Possible complications include:

  • Infection
  • Blood clot in the vein (thrombosis)
  • Blocked line (occlusion)
  • Bleeding 
What should I look out for whilst my PICC line is in?

If you notice any of the following please contact Velindre Cancer Centre without delay.  The telephone number is at the end of the booklet.

  • Feeling ‘shivery’ or unwell after the PICC has been flushed
  • Any redness or pain at the site where the PICC goes into the skin
  • Swelling or redness of your arm, neck or shoulder
  • The PICC line looks longer or shorter than when it went in
  • Fluid or puss leaking around the skin where your PICC line enters your arm
  • Your skin feeling sore or uncomfortable under the dressing
  • The securacath (orange securing device) is painful under the skin
Who looks after my PICC line?

Your PICC line needs to be cleaned and flushed every week and this is shared between Velindre Cancer Centre and the community nurses.  We also ask you to have some responsibilities.  These are:

  • To check your PICC every day using the alert card and report any problems as soon as possible to Velindre Cancer Centre 
  • To use your arm normally – this is important to reduce the risk of some complications.
  • To know when your PICC line has been flushed and dressed 
  • To keep your PICC line dry at all times

If you are having daily radiotherapy treatment your dressing may be changed and your PICC line flushed in Velindre.  Please tell your PICC nurse if you are to receive daily radiotherapy treatment.

Are there any activities that I shouldn’t do with a PICC line in my arm?

You can carry on with your normal activities when you have a PICC line in place but there are some things you need to avoid.  You should not swim, weight-lift, play golf, carry very heavy items or use heavy rucksacks.  

What about showering or bathing?

You will need to keep your PICC line dry when you shower or bath.  This is very important as it can cause the dressing to loosen or cause an infection.  A waterproof sleeve will be given to you on the day of your appointment for the PICC

Contact telephone numbers

We hope that this leaflet has answered your questions.
If you have any further questions or problems with your PICC please contact:

Velindre Cancer Centre: 029 2061 5888 
If you are unwell at home or need to talk to anyone about your PICC ask for the treatment helpline or nurse in charge after 4.30 or weekends. 

A short video can be found explaining the insertion procedure on the Macmillan website.

This leaflet was written by health professionals.  The leaflet has been approved by doctors, nurses and patients.  It is reviewed and updated annually.  

Author: Meinir (Min) Hughes. Intravenous Access Specialist Nurse

Updated Jan 2018