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How to Manage your Central Venous Access Device

What is a Central Venous Access Device (CVAD)?

  • A CVAD is an intravenous line that is put into a large vein in your body and travels to the upper chest
  • It can be used to give intravenous medications and chemotherapy and to take blood tests
  • Your Central Venous Access Device (CVAD) includes your Hickman or PICC.

Hickman Line:

A Hickman line is inserted in a large vein in your chest and sits usually on the right side of your chest.


PICC (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter):

A PICC (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) is inserted through a vein in your upper arm and travels through the vein into the upper chest.


What do I need to know?

  • Keep your CVAD clean and away from dirty surfaces
  • Do not let anyone pull or play with your CVAD
  • Do not allow pets to lie on your chest or come in contact with your CVAD

When should I ask for help?

Call the Hematology Nursing Site line if:

  • You have any redness or pain at the catheter site or along the tunnel
  • The catheter comes out or moves position (do not push the catheter back inside)
  • You see any yellow fluid or discharge at the catheter site
  • You see any bleeding bigger than the size of a dime at the catheter site

What do I do if the CVAD comes out or falls out?

  • Make sure the clamp is closed or kink the lines right away
  • Put clean gauze on the area or cover with anything clean
  • If you are short of breath, lay on your left side and call 911.
  • You may have to come into the hospital to have it put back in properly

What to do if your Hickman or PICC leaks or tears?

  • Clamp or kink the lines close to the site above the tear
  • Call 911

How do you take care of your CVAD?

  • If your CVAD is not being used, it must always be clamped and have a special cap on the end
  • For the Hickman lines, you will need a dressing on your exit site until it heals. This will help protect the area from infection.
  • Your dressing must be clean, dry and stay in place at all times. After it heals you do not need a dressing.

The dressing over your CVAD will have to be changed if:

  • It is damp or wet
  • It is dirty
  • It is not sticking to your skin
  • You have pain or discomfort around the device
Hickman Line PICC Line
Can I bathe or shower with it in?

• Yes you can shower with your Hickman once it is healed.

• The Hickman line should be covered for a shower if there is a dressing on it until it is healed.

• Do not submerge your Hickman or exit site in bath water

• Yes you can shower

• Do not put your arm under water

• Wrap your arm in a plastic bag/cellophane wrap and tape it to the skin to keep the PICC dry

Can I swim with it in? • No • No
Do I need to have the dressing changed?

• Yes

• Once a week

• If the dressing gets wet, loose or dirty.

• You do not need a dressing once your sutures are removed

• Yes

• Once a week

• If the dressing is gets wet, loose or dirty

Does it need to be flushed?

• Yes

• Once a week in each lumen with Normal Saline 10-20mL and then Heparin 300 units

• Yes

• Once a week in each lumen with Normal Saline 10-20mL

How do I keep it secured?

• Secure the Hickman directly to the skin with a piece of tape away from the cap and clamp.

• Be careful around small children and pets as they may pull the line

• Secure the PICC directly to the skin with a piece of tape away from the cap

• Be careful around small children and pets as they may pull the line

Any other restrictions? • No heavy lifting or contact sports, for example shoveling snow, playing contact sports (hockey, basketball) • No heavy lifting, no contact sports, for example shoveling snow, playing contact sports (hockey, basketball)