A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) infection occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream through or around a central line catheter. A PICC is a long, thin tube that is inserted through a vein in the arm. The catheter is threaded through the arm vein until it reaches a larger vein close to the heart. Commonly called a PICC line, it is used to deliver medication, nutrition, IV fluids, and chemotherapy.
If bacteria start to grow on the central line catheter, they can easily enter the blood and cause a serious infection. This can lead to a condition called sepsis, which occurs when bacteria overwhelm the body.
Bacteria normally live on the skin. Since the catheter is inserted through your skin, these bacteria will sometimes track along the outside of the catheter. From the catheter, they can get into your bloodstream.
Factors that increase your chances of developing this infection include:
Symptoms may include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your heart. This can be done with echocardiogram.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
When you are getting a PICC line placed, the staff will take steps to reduce your risk of infection.
There are also steps that you can take to reduce your risk of infection:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Society of Critical Care Medicine
Communicable Disease Control Unit
Central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/bsi/bsi.html. Updated May 17, 2012. Accessed August 13, 2013.
Central venous catheter. American Thoracic Society website. Available at: http://patients.thoracic.org/information-series/en/resources/central-venous-catheter.pdf. Accessed August 13, 2013.
Marschall J, Mermel LA, et al. Strategies to prevent central line-associated bloodstream infections in acute care hospitals. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2008 Oct;29 Suppl 1:S22-S30.
Last reviewed January 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.