Central venous catheter - flushing
Central venous access device - care; CVAD - care
What to Expect at Home
You have a central venous catheter. This is a tube that goes into a vein in your chest. It will help carry nutrients and medicine into your body. It will also be used to take blood when you need to have blood tests.
These catheters are used when people need medical treatment over a long period of time.
- You may need antibiotics or other medicines for weeks to months.
- You may need extra nutrition because your bowels are not working correctly.
- You may be receiving kidney dialysis.
You will need to make sure the skin where the catheter is placed stays healthy. This will help protect you from infection. You will need to check the skin and change the special bandages (dressings) around the site about once a week. See also: Central venous catheter-dressing change
You will also need to rinse out the catheter after every use. This is called “flushing.” Sometimes you will also need to flush it between uses. A friend, family member, caregiver, or your doctor may be able to help you.
It is okay to take showers and baths 7 to10 days after your catheter was put in place. When you do, make sure the dressings are secure and your catheter site is staying dry. Do not let the catheter site go under water if you are soaking in the bathtub.
Supplies You Will Need
Your doctor will give you a prescription for the supplies you will need. You can buy these at a medical supply store. It will be helpful to know the name of your catheter and what company made it. Write this information down and keep it handy.
To flush your catheter, you will need:
- Clean paper towels
- Saline syringes (clear), and maybe heparin syringes (yellow)
- Alcohol wipes
- Sterile gloves
- “Sharps” container. This is a special container used for syringes and needles.
How to Flush Your Catheter
You will flush your catheter in a sterile (very clean) way. Follow these steps:
Ask your doctor if you also need to flush your catheter with heparin. Heparin is a medicine that helps prevent blood clots. Follow these steps if you do:
Keep all the clamps on your catheter closed at all times. It is a good idea to change the caps at the end of your catheter (called the “claves”) when you change your catheter dressing and after you have blood taken.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor or nurse if you:
- Are having trouble flushing your catheter
- Have bleeding, redness, or swelling at the catheter site
- Notice leaking, or the catheter is cut or cracked
- Have pain near the site or in your neck, face, chest, or arm
- Have signs of infection (fever, chills)
- Are short of breath
- Feel dizzy
Also call your doctor if your catheter:
- Is coming out of your vein
- Seems blocked
Last reviewed 12/27/2012 by Jennifer K. Mannheim, ARNP, Medical Staff, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Seattle Children's Hospital; and Shabir Bhimji MD, PhD, Specializing in General Surgery, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Midland, TX. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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