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If you are undergoing treatment for infections requiring antibiotics, anemia requiring iron infusions or blood transfusions, or chemotherapy, your doctor may order a central venous access catheter (CVAC) or peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) to be placed in your veins. Venous access procedures provide doctors with a way to readily reach some of your central veins without the need to start frequent IV lines in your arm or hand.

Reasons for Venous Access Procedures

A central venous access catheter (CVAC) is a tube that is inserted beneath the skin and into a major vein, typically in the chest. It allows doctors and nurses to draw blood or administer medications and nutrients easily, quickly, and without causing the patient any pain. CVACs are a way for you to avoid the discomfort, bruising, and irritation caused by multiple injections. A PICC line is inserted into a smaller vein in the upper arm and the tube continues through the vein into a larger vein in the chest. A port-a-cath is a central venous access catheter that has a reservoir that is implanted just under the skin in the upper chest. No tube is visible from the skin. These catheters are often used for patients who are undergoing chemotherapy or dialysis treatments, or for those who require frequent supplement, antifungal, or antibiotic infusions.

Process for Venous Access Procedures

Your CVAC will be placed by an interventional radiologist. You may be given medication to help you relax, and the area around the site will be numbed. Next, a needle will be inserted into the venous access point to create a tunnel into which the CVAC will be placed. The tip of the central venous access catheter reaches into a large vein, and the other end remains outside your skin. In the case of a port-a-cath, a small chamber containing a silicone septum is connected with the tube in the vein and placed just under the skin in the chest or in some cases in the arm. Patients may feel slight discomfort and pressure during the procedure. To prepare for your CVAC, your nurse or doctor will provide you with instructions. Your doctor may tell you to consume only clear liquids after midnight on the night before your procedure.