Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter Infections

A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) infection occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream through or around a central line catheter . A PICC is a long, thin tube that is inserted through a vein in the arm. The catheter is threaded through the arm vein until it reaches a larger vein close to the heart. Commonly called a PICC line, it is used to deliver medicine, nutrition, IV fluids, and chemotherapy . If bacteria start to grow on the central line catheter , they can easily enter the blood and cause a serious infection. This can lead to a condition called sepsis , which occurs when bacteria overwhelm the body.

  • Causes

    Bacteria normally live on the skin. Since the catheter is inserted through your skin, these bacteria will sometimes track along the outside of the catheter. From the catheter, they can get into your bloodstream.

  • Definition


    A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) infection occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream through or around a
    central line catheter
    . A
    PICC
    is a long, thin tube that is inserted through a vein in the arm. The catheter is threaded through the arm vein until it reaches a larger vein close to the heart. Commonly called a PICC line, it is used to deliver medicine, nutrition, IV fluids, and
    chemotherapy
    .

    Veins in the Arm
    IMAGE
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    If bacteria start to grow on the
    central line catheter
    , they can easily enter the blood and cause a serious infection. This can lead to a condition called
    sepsis
    , which occurs when bacteria overwhelm the body.

  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

    Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

    • Blood tests
    • Cultures


    Images may be taken of your heart. This can be done with
    echocardiogram
    .

  • Prevention

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your chances of developing this infection include:

    • Having a catheter for a long time
    • Having a catheter that is not coated with a substance that kills bacteria
    • Having a catheter inserted into a vein in the thigh
    • Having a weakened immune system
    • Being in the intensive care unit
    • Having an infection elsewhere in the body or skin

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms may include:

    • Fever
    • Shaking, chills
    • Fast heart rate
    • Redness, swelling, or tenderness at the catheter site
    • Drainage from the catheter site

  • Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

    • Antibiotics—Antibiotics are medicines used to treat an infection. The kind of antibiotic you will be given depends on which bacteria is found in your blood.
    • Central line care—Often, the PICC line will need to be removed and replaced by a new catheter.