What is a temporary central venous catheter?
A temporary central venous catheter (or central line) is a long, hollow tube that is inserted into one of the central veins. One end of the catheter (the distal end) is normally positioned near to the entrance of the heart and the other end comes out from the neck or chest wall. Temporary central lines are designed to stay in for short periods, they are not normally left in for more than a week. They can be used for both monitoring, for treatment, and for blood tests. You cannot go home with a temporary central line in.
How is a temporary central line put in?
You will have your central line inserted in the operating theatre or on the ward. This is usually done under local anaesthetic and takes about 15 minutes. You may feel some stinging when the local anaesthetic goes in and some pushing and pulling during the procedure. There may some brief periods of discomfort.
First, I will examine your veins with an ultrasound machine to decide on the best vein (I usually use the internal jugular vein which sits at the base of the neck but occasionally use the vein just underneath the collar bone or at the top of the leg). Then I will clean your chest and neck with antiseptic solution, and numb the skin with local anaesthetic. After this I will put a needle and a wire into the vein whilst watching with the ultrasound machine. Then I will make a tiny cut in the skin and thread the tube into the vein. The tube will be secured to the skin using a stitch and will be covered with a dressing. The end of the tube may split into as many as four separate branches (lumens) depending on the treatment you require. You will need an X-ray after the procedure to make sure the line is in the correct position.
Care of your central line
The dressing will need changing after 24 hours and again if it gets dirty. The nurses will normally do this for you.
How is the temporary central line removed?
When you no longer need the line it will be taken out. A nurse will usually do this for you and it is a painless procedure that only takes a few seconds.