What is a PICC LINE (aka IV)?

I have a picc line. I got it on March 1, 2010. It allows me to infuse intravenous medications into my body at home on a daily basis. My picc line is also known as my IV. A regular IV at the hospital goes into your arm but a picc line goes into your arm, threads through a vein up your arm and ends all the way in your heart.

What IS a picc line? (please don't read if you get queasy about needles)

A picc line is a peripherally inserted central catheter. It is basically a tube/catheter that an interventional radiologist inserts through a hole they make in your arm, and then thread it all the way to your heart. There, it can dump meds into the body that can be circulated around the body in a quick fashion. IV treatment is much more powerful than oral meds. After about 1.5 years or oral meds and Chinese herbs to treat my Lyme Disease, it was time to move to the big guns - IV treatment.

The part of the line that comes out of my arm has an attachment called an extender. This extender allows the me, the patient, to reach the end of the line and insert IV meds with proper sterile technique, which I am now a pro at!

My picc line is on my left arm. The picc line must be kept VERY clean, sterile at all times, and the biggest concerns for picc line users are picc line infections and clots in the line. If any bacteria gets into the line, or on the site of the line on the arm, and in the body, an infection can develop and this can make you extremely ill (read, hospital for a few days) and your picc line will be removed. I am SUPER protective about my line. This baby is not coming out until I'm done with my treatment, however long that is, 6 more months, another year, who knows.

A clot in the line is usually caused by too many or too large of air bubbles entering your line from the IV tubing, which connects to the IV bag of meds.

Picc lines can last up to a year, even longer if they are maintained well.

Dressing changes (a dressing is the sterile cover that goes over the picc line and the hole in your arm, along with other devices to keep the catheter secure and prevent it from moving outside your body) must be done weekly by a certified home health infusion nurse. Family members or friends can also learn to do this, but so far nobody has volunteered. It is actually not so difficult, now that I've witnessed my nurse perform over 32 dressing changes. But it does take steady hands, care, and sterile process. And I trust an infusion nurse much more. I don't even trust ER nurses, as I've actually had 2 ER nurses ALMOST mess up my picc line during infusion of liquids when I was hospitalized! Everything has to be VERY sterile. Like wear a mask, stay in the sterile field, no outside air allowed in the room, etc.

Who uses picc lines?
Mostly, CHEMO patients, Lyme patients, and people on TPN (total parenteral nutrition). If other people use it for other purposes, they may have issues because this thing is a full-time additional body part.

Some basics on a picc line, which is used for Lyme treatment, chemotherapy, etc.: http://www.tammylynne.org/forum/forum_entry.php?id=28

Restrictions on Picc Lines
Cannot lift over 5 lbs on my left arm (the picc line arm)
Cannot do strenuous activity like pushing, pulling open doors, or especially any repetitive motion that may cause the catheter to get inflamed inside the body.
Cannot get the picc line wet! This requires a paper towel wrap, plus tight saran wrap over that, plus a professional medical picc line shower cover over that. My mom had to shower me for the first 3 weeks of my picc line in. It was SO sore and I could barely move it so she had to shower me head to toe. She did not enjoy this.

There are plenty of photos of my picc line and videos on the blog so you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

Congrats, you now have an honorary degree in infusion nursing!