A central line is a special intravenous line, called an IV. This type of IV is inserted through the chest and threaded into one of the large veins that lie close to the heart. A central line has multiple ports that can be used to:
A central line is used for:
A central line is inserted under sterile conditions. The person is usually placed in the Trendelenburg position, which means the head is below the level of the heart. The skin is cleansed, and a local anesthetic is injected to make the area numb. A healthcare professional advances the line until it reaches the large vein of the chest. The catheter is then sutured in place, and a sterile dressing is applied.
A chest X-ray will be done right away after a central line is inserted to confirm that it is in the right position. The line should not be used until the X-ray is done . A central line can usually stay in place for up to 4 weeks.
If the person is going home with the central line, the family will need to learn how to care for the catheter. A visiting nurse can come to the home to help the family with the care at first. The bandage at the insertion site will need to be changed every 3 days. The insertion site should also be inspected closely for signs of infection. These signs include redness, warmth, drainage, and swelling.
While inserting the line, it is possible to puncture the lung. The catheter may irritate the heart and cause irregular heartbeats, called arrhythmias. Other complications may include:
Any of these complications may lead to the removal of the central line.
Author:Pam Rosenthal, RN, BSN, CCM
Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
Reviewer:Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
Illustrated Manual of Nursing Practice, 2nd Ed., 1994
Textbook of Critical Care Nursing: Diagnosis and Management, Thelan, 1990