Tunneled Catheter Placement

Also known as: tunneled central venous catheter, tunneled PICC line.

What is tunneled catheter placement?

A catheter is a thin tube through which a variety of fluids/medications may be administered or blood drawn. A tunneled central venous catheter is one that is placed in a large central vein most frequently in the neck (internal jugular vein), groin (femoral vein), chest (subclavian vein) or back (trans lumber), while the other end is tunneled under the skin to come out on the side of the chest. It’s used when access to a vein is going to be required for a long period of time.

What happens during the procedure?

To place a tunneled catheter, doctors use ultrasound and live X-ray (fluoroscopy) for guidance. One end of the catheter is inserted into a large vein near the heart, and the other end leading from it, is tunneled under the skin before exiting in the chest.

Is any special preparation needed?

The patient will need to avoid food, drinks and certain medications before the procedure as intravenous sedation or general anesthesia is required.

What are the risk factors?

Potential complications (depending on the site utilized) include infection, bleeding, damage/puncture of surrounding organs and tissues, air in the veins, collapse of the lungs, or the catheter breaking.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: March 15, 2021 11:43 AM

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