Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line insertion


A PICC line is a long, thin, flexible tube used for administering intravenous fluids and medication. 

It is inserted into a peripheral vein, usually in the upper arm and then advanced to the superior vena cava, which sits above the heart. A PICC line is inserted if your veins have been damaged from previous chemotherapy treatment.


Before the procedure

  • Fasting: You may eat and drink as normal.  
  • Allergies or previous reactions to contrast (x-ray dye): Please inform Intra staff at the time of booking your procedure if you have any known history of allergies, particularly allergies to x-ray contrast and seafood.
  • Anticoagulants (blood thinners): If you are taking any blood thinners (e.g. Warfarin, Clexane, Pradaxa, Rivaroxban), please make this known to Intra staff at the time of booking. You will need to stop this medication temporarily 2-5 days before the procedure, but this will be advised via your interventional radiologist, Intra nurse, or the admin team.
  • Other usual medications: Continue these unless advised otherwise by your doctor.

During the procedure

A PICC line is inserted by an interventional radiologist, or vascular surgeon.

The area around the vein in your arm will be painted with an antiseptic solution, and a sterile drape will then be placed over your body, to ensure sterility is maintained. Local anaesthetic will be injected around the vein which will sting for approximately 30 seconds, but after this, you should not feel any pain. If at any time you feel pain, or discomfort, please inform the doctor immediately, and more local anaesthetic can be given.

Using ultrasound guidance, the best vein in your arm is accessed.

A fine wire is inserted through the vein, and the PICC line catheter is then threaded over the wire to guide it to the superior vena cava. The catheter is secured with a dressing on your arm to ensure it remains in place and does not move.  The sterile dressing also protects the site from infection.  The PICC line can be used immediately following placement.

This procedure generally takes between 20 and 40 minutes.

After the procedure

After the procedure you are able to be discharged straight away.  Before you leave, a nurse will give you discharge instructions to follow at home.

What are the risks?

As with any procedure, there are potential risks involved. Your interventional radiologist will explain the procedure, discuss possible risks and answer any questions you may have. You will then be asked to sign the consent form. This will occur on the day of your procedure.