Central Venous Catheters - Topic Overview
Can complications result from the use of a central venous catheter?
Possible complications from the use of a central venous catheter
- Bleeding, caused by inserting the catheter
into the vein. But this is usually mild and will stop by itself.
- Infection, requiring treatment with antibiotics or removal
of the catheter.
- Blood clots, which can form in blood vessels, especially in the arms.
- A blocked line. This can happen from a blood clot or from something else getting stuck in the line. Regular flushing of the catheter can help keep the line clear. Preventing infections and making sure the catheter is in place can also help keep the line clear.
- Kinking of the catheter. A twisted or kinked catheter must be
repositioned or replaced.
- Pain. You may experience pain at the
place where the catheter is inserted or where it lies under your
- Collapsed lung (pneumothorax).
The risk of a collapsed lung varies with the skill of the person inserting the
catheter and the site of placement. It is most likely to happen during
placement of a catheter in the chest, although the risk is small.
- Shifting of the catheter. A catheter that has moved out of
place can sometimes be repositioned. If repositioning does not work, it must be
How can you care for a central venous catheter at home?
Your nurses will teach you how to
take care of your catheter. You will learn how to
change the dressing and
flush your catheter. Call your doctor if you have questions or
You can take steps at home to care for your catheter:
- Always wash your hands before you touch your central line.
- Try to keep the exit site dry. This can help prevent infection. When you shower, cover the site with waterproof material, such as plastic wrap. Be sure you cover both the exit site and the central line cap(s).
- Fasten or tape the central line to your body to prevent it from pulling or dangling.
Avoid bending or crimping your central line. And wear clothing that doesn't rub or pull on your central line.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call
- You passed out (lost consciousness).
- You have severe trouble breathing.
- You have sudden
chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
have a fast or uneven pulse.
Call your doctor now or seek
immediate medical care if:
- You have signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or
- Red streaks leading from the exit site.
- Pus or
blood draining from the exit site.
- Swollen lymph nodes in your
neck, armpits, or groin.
- A fever.
- You have a fever over 100°F (38°C), or you have chills.
have swelling in your face, chest, neck, or arm on the side where the central
- You have signs of a blood clot, such as bulging veins near the
- Your central line is leaking.
- You feel resistance
when you inject medicine or fluids into your line.
- Your central
line is out of place. This may happen after severe coughing or vomiting, or if
you pull on the central line.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to
contact your doctor if:
- You have any concerns about your line.