Peripherally inserted central catheter - dressing change
PICC - dressing change
What to Expect at Home
You have a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC). This is a tube that goes into a vein in your arm. It will help carry nutrients and medicines into your body. It will also be used to take blood when you need to have blood tests.
Dressings are special bandages that block germs and keep your catheter site dry and clean. You will learn how to change your dressings. You should change the dressing about once a week. You will need to change it sooner if it becomes loose or gets wet or dirty.
After some practice, it will get easier. A friend, family member, caregiver, nurse, or your doctor may be able to help you.
Your doctor will give you a prescription for the supplies you will need. You can buy these at a medical supply store. It will help to know the name of your catheter and what company made it. Write this information down, and keep it handy.
Changing Your Dressings
To change your dressings, you will need:
- Sterile gloves
- A cleaning solution (such aschlorhexidine) in a single-use small applicator
- 2 special sponges or wipes that contain a cleaning agent such as chlorhexidine
- A special patch, called a Biopatch
- A clear barrier bandage, either Tegaderm or Covaderm
- 3 pieces of 1-inch wide tape, 4 inches long (tear one of the pieces in half lengthwise)
You will change your dressings in a sterile (very clean) way. Follow these steps:
Follow these steps to remove the dressing and check your skin
You will then clean the area and catheter.
You will then place a new dressing.
You will then tape the catheter to help secure it.
Throw away the gloves and wash your hands when you are done. Write down the date you changed your dressing.
Keep all of 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 dressing and after blood draws.
It is okay to take showers and baths 7 - 10 days after your catheter was put in place. When you do, make sure the dressings are secure and your catheter site stays dry. Do not let the catheter site go under water if you are soaking in a bathtub.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor or nurse if you have
- Bleeding, redness, or swelling at the site
- Develop swelling in the arm downstream of where the catheter is
- Leaking from the catheter, or the catheter is cut or cracked
- Pain near the site, or in your neck, face, chest, or arm
- Fever or chills
- A hard time breathing
- Trouble flushing your catheter or changing your dressings
Also call your doctor if your catheter
- Is coming out of your vein
- Seems blocked
Last reviewed 3/17/2012 by Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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