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Hospital  >  Departments  >  Critical Care Medicine  >  Navigating the ICU  >  What are all those tubes and machines?  >  What are central lines?

What are central lines?

For sick patients, it is important to have access to a large vein because of the types and amount of medications given to patients in the ICU.

Large veins are found in the neck, shoulder and groin. They are better able to handle the injection of certain drugs on an ongoing basis, compared to the veins in the arms or legs.

How are central lines inserted?

Equipment is used to locate a large vein, and a sterile technique is then used to insert the central line into the correct spot.

These precautions, along with daily nursing care of the lines, help to reduce the risk of complications, such as puncture of the lungs or an artery, clotting in the veins or infections.

Complications are very uncommon (see Sunnybrook’s current rates of infections from central lines)

Do central lines hurt?

During the insertion of the central line, there may be some pain. So, the patient is given a local pain killer to minimize feeling in the area. After the line is in place, there should be no pain related to it. If a patient complains of pain in the location of the line, it may be a sign of clots or an infection. The team will look into any complaints of pain.

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Location and contact

Critical Care Medicine

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
2075 Bayview Avenue, 
D-wing, 1st floor
room D1 08
Toronto, ON M4N 3M5

Phone: 416-480-4522
Fax: 416-480-4999

For information about patients admitted to Sunnybrook's Intensive Care Units, please contact the unit through the hospital switchboard at 416-480-6100