Saturday, July 28, 2007


I thought I would show what a PICC line is, what it does and how it all works together. This will be a little graphic so if you are on the queasy side, you may want to skip it. I had never even heard of a PICC line before this mess, but apparently they are very common for other things and are an expeditious route to deliver meds, fluids, and TPN. So this is my reality and the reality of women who are so much worse off with HG than me. Something I realized through chemotherapy 10 years ago and now is this: there is always someone WAY worse off!!

Here we are getting the line inserted:

My mom and John went to the hospital with me for support. While they were preparing me for the procedure mom and John were over in the corner discussing the remodeling he is doing on one of the bathrooms in my parents home. I finally had to ask them to come and pay attention to me and support me!! Those stinkers!!

A PICC is the acronym for a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter. A PICC is a thin, long, soft plastic tube that functions as an intravenous (IV) line. A PICC is often placed in radiology by a radiologist and a PA.

Before insertion, the radiology tech measures the distance from your arm to your chest to determine the length of the catheter needed. The tech then uses an ultrasound device to assist with locating the large blood vessels (veins) in the upper arm and marks their location. Then, your arm is prepped with an anti-bacterial soap and betadine and then covered with a sterile cloth to prevent infection. All parties wears sterile attire for this procedure.

Once you are prepped, the tech places a tourniquet on your arm right and locates the large blood vessels. The site is then numbed (or numbed as well as possible) with Lidocaine. Then, the PA uses a needle to enter the vein, inserts the introducer wire, and guides the PICC line into the superior vena cava that feeds into your heart. Following the placement, an x-ray is taken to ensure that the PICC line is accurately positioned near your heart. The whole process takes around an hour.

Diagram of a PICC line placement. Mine is placed on the inside of my upper left arm:

A double lumen PICC before insertion.

My PICC line (fluids being run) - My color has really improved over the past few weeks.

Saline Flush (no needle kind) & Heparin Flush. Both lumens (ports) must be flushed daily and before and after any infusions with saline. Both most also be flushed daily with Heparin (an anticoagulent).

Nothing is to penetrate the plastic dressing. No water, no nothing. Here I am with my arm wrapped in saran wrap and taped up with a ziploc bag - I couldn't bend my arm so John had to help me wash my hair!!

The dressing is changed weekly with both the patient and the nurse wearing masks to avoid contamination. I don't look at the line when its uncovered to prevent breathing on it. My arm is always sore for a day or two after the dressing is changed. The have to move the line around to clean it up - it does NOT feel good.

Close up of my PICC: this is after 2 weeks of having the PICC inserted.

So that's that!! It was a really scary procedure for me - but I am so thankful to have it now. It has taken me awhile to sleep well with all these lines - but I finally am sleeping great at night.


partyof7 said...

Hi, Kymber. We have a few things in common... My name is Kim, I am 38, and my husband and I have five children. Our second oldest is a boy named Levi (he will be 10 at the end of this month). I have had leukemia twice (2000 and from 2004-2006...both times I was pregnant) and have had PICC lines three times. The last time I had a lot of problems from the PICCs (blood clots and heart problems from improper positioning of the line into my heart), so I have sworn them off for the rest of my life! Do you mind my asking what you were being treated for? Congratualtions on your beautiful baby boy! You look great! I hope your health woes are behind you. :)

Kymber and John said...

I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum - extreme morning sickness. 1% of pregnant women get this disease - most of them are better by 20 weeks. i threw up everything I ate and drank for the entire 8 months I was pregnant. The PICC Line was a life saver for me. It was the best thing to happen up to the birth of my son!! I was so dehydrated they couldn't find veins for my IV's. I did have ovarian cancer 10 years ago but didn't have a PICC Line during my chemotherapy.

You can read about Hyperemesis on the other pages of my blog!!

Anonymous said...

Hey,I saw that you had to use saran wrap to keep it dry. There is a great product called DryPro that will keep your PICC line completely dry. It is a waterproof, vaccumsealed cover that now is latex free. The cover fits right over your PICC Line and has both ends open so it keeps your hands free. It will keep your PICC line and the area around it completely dry and secure. You can shower, bathe and even swim with it. I read that you no longer have a PICC Line but maybe you can recommend this product to people you know who have one. It will definatley improve their quality of life. If you would like more information check out this website,

picczees said...

Hi Kym...enjoyed your site and I once had a piccline and have developed a cover up also for showering! See my website at
I have many great designs to choose from also they help keep your picc line clean and safe from snagging on things!!!!

Best regards and take care