Central Venous Catheters

Central Venous Catheters

A central venous catheter is a device that allows health professionals to give medicines, fluids and blood products into a large central vein leading directly into your child's heart.

Share

Key points to remember about central venous catheters

  • a central venous catheter (CVC) is sometimes called a 'central line'
  • it is a device that allows health professionals to give medicines, fluids and blood products into a large central vein leading directly into your child's heart

What is a central venous catheter?

A central venous catheter (CVC) (sometimes called a 'central line') is a device that provides entry from outside the body to a large central vein leading directly into the heart.

Doctors and nurses use a CVC to give chemotherapy and other medicines, nutritional fluids, intravenous fluids and blood products. Doctors and nurses can also use a CVC to withdraw samples of blood for testing. A CVC remains in place for the duration of treatment unless it is a temporary catheter.

There are 3 types of central venous catheter:

External semi-permanent

  • Hickman
  • Broviac
  • Cook

Read more about semi-permanent external venous catheters

External temporary

  • PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter)

Read about temporary external venous catheters

Subcutaneous port

  • Port-a-cath
  • Mediport
  • Powerport

Read more about subcutaneous ports

Which central venous catheter will my child have?

The device type will depend on your child's age and type of treatment. Your child's healthcare team will talk to you about which one will suit your child best.

Ask your nurse for details about the CVC selected for your child.

Is it painful to have a central venous catheter or PICC inserted or removed?

A doctor or nurse will put in external and subcutaneous catheters under a general anaesthetic in the operating theatre. Your child will be asleep and will feel nothing while the insertion procedure is taking place.

A doctor or nurse may also put in a peripherally inserted central catheter (known as PICC or PIC line) under a general anaesthetic in the operating theatre. Or, they may put it in on the ward while using a local anaesthetic.

There may be some pain during the first 1 or 2 days after insertion. An anaesthetist or another doctor may prescribe pain-relieving medicine (analgesics) to make sure your child is comfortable.

Read more about childhood cancer treatments

Read more about childhood cancer

Acknowledgements

All the pages in the childhood cancer section of this website have been written by health professionals who work in the field of paediatric oncology. They have been reviewed by the members of the National Child Cancer Network (NZ). Medical information is authorised by the clinical leader of the National Child Cancer Network.

This page last reviewed 10 June 2021.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it