Adjusting to Life with a PICC Line

picc line care

When you have a PICC line, there are some things you will have to do differently, but most of them can still be performed comfortably. You will need to be cautious around certain things, such as activities that involve arm movement, since you may dislocate your PICC line as a result. Even though a PICC line requires some getting used to, it is well worth the effort. 

When your line is fitted a nurse or other provider will show you how to care for it. This might involve checking the area daily for signs of infections and what to avoid. If you have any of these signs or symptoms below, call your doctor.

  • Redness
  • Tenderness
  • Leakage
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding

picc line pain

For the first few days, your arm may be numb, sore, and swollen. The swelling might even last for a week or so, but don't worry, this is normal. Here are some simple tips to ease the discomfort. 

  • Apply a warm pack to the PICC line area for 30 minutes, every 2 hours for the first 24 hours.

  • Take ibuprofen. Three times a day with meals for the first 3 days or as directed by your doctor. This will help prevent inflammation and soreness.

picc line complications

Contact sports   Avoid sports like football or ruby.
Avoid heavy lifting

Any heavy lifting over 5 to 10 pounds must be avoided, including backpacks and handbags. 

Sharp objects
Keep away from sharp objects.
Keep your pets away from your PICC lines.

Don’t have any of the following on the arm where your PICC line is placed

  • Needle sticks (such as for blood draws or an IV line)
  • Blood pressure measurements
  • Tight clothing or tourniquets
Keep dry
If your PICC line does get wet, immediately try to dry the area and call your doctor to schedule an emergency dressing change. The sooner your dressing is changed, the lower the risk of infection.

How long can a picc line stay in

It is possible to have the line in place for 6 - 8 months, which means you can maintain it throughout your treatment, limiting the amount of  stress and pain associated with needles. 

How often should a catheter be flushed

The line needs to be cleaned each week to prevent infections from forming. This is done by removing the plaster and using a wipe to clean around the tube exit area. Next a nurse will use a liquid to flush out any dirt or other medicines in the tube to make sure the inside is not clogged. 

This can be a very odd feeling. For me it felt like cold water running through my veins. It may not feel nice but it doesn't take long! Blood samples can also be taken through the PICC line and reduces the need for multiple needle punctures in the arm. 

Showering with a picc line 
You can have a bath or shower as normal but you must keep your line dry. A waterproof cast cover will be given to you by your doctor. 
Do not allow the PICC line to be submerged under water even if protected by a cover.
Hot steamy showers may compromise the adhesive on the water proof dressing. Warm showers are preferable.
Keep the dressing (or bandage) clean, dry, and secured to the skin. If it gets wet or torn, change it right away.  Do not put lotions or ointments under the dressing.

        For more help read - 'How a PICC Line is Fitted' 

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