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Central Venous Catheter: Changing the Dressing

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These are general guidelines. Your nurse may change and care for your catheter at home. Or a nurse will teach you how to take care of your catheter. Be sure to follow the specific instructions he or she gives you. Call your doctor if you have questions or concerns.

In general, a clear dressing needs to be changed once a week, such as every Monday. A gauze dressing needs to be changed 2 or 3 times a week, such as every Monday and Thursday or every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Also, change your dressing right away if it becomes wet, loose, or dirty.

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  1. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water. Rinse and dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towels.
  2. Prepare a clean work area, such as a clean counter in your kitchen or bathroom.
    • You may wish to spread several clean paper towels over your work area.
    • If you change your dressing in the kitchen, do not leave food on the counter.
  3. Gather the supplies you need for your dressing change, including:
    • An antiseptic, such as alcohol prep pads and swabs or Betadine swabs. Some health professionals recommend chlorhexidine. Your health professional will tell you which type of antiseptic he or she prefers.
    • Gauze and tape bandage or a clear dressing.
  4. Wash and dry your hands again.
  5. Open the packages that contain the antiseptic swabs. Lay them on the clean work surface.
  6. Remove the old dressing.
    • Do not tug on the catheter.
    • Do not touch the catheter insertion site.
  7. Inspect the site by looking for redness, swelling, or drainage. Notice whether the area around the catheter is tender or sore when you remove the bandage or move the catheter.
  8. Rewash and redry your hands.
  9. Remove one alcohol swab from the package and clean around the catheter exit site in a circular fashion, starting at the insertion site and moving out.
  10. Remove an antiseptic swab, such as a Betadine swab, from the package and clean around the catheter exit site in a circular fashion, starting at the insertion site and moving out.
    • Repeat with a second antiseptic swab.
    • Do not use a swab more than once.
    • Discard each swab after use.
  11. Using an alcohol prep pad, grip the catheter at the exit site. Using another alcohol pad, gently clean the outside of the catheter.
    • Start from the exit site and move toward the cap.
    • If your catheter has 2 or 3 lumens, use a fresh pad to clean each lumen.
  12. Apply gauze or a clear dressing. If you are using a gauze dressing, secure it with tape.
  13. Loop the catheter under one corner of the dressing or place it over one corner of the dressing and secure it with tape.
    • You may need to experiment with different positions to find the one most comfortable for you.
    • To safeguard against the catheter getting caught or pulled during your activities, make sure the catheter does not hang or flop loosely.
  14. Dispose of the old dressing and any used materials as directed by your nurse.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 14, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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