Maine Medical Center

Central Venous Lines: Patient Education

Having a central line helps to make sure you get the treatment you need as prescribed by your healthcare providers. You can receive medications and fluids directly into your bloodstream through your central line. But having a central line can be risky. It is important that you are aware of the risks, signs of complications, how to care for your central line, and who to notify with concerns.

Types of central lines

  • PICC
  • Broviac
  • Hickman
  • Implanted Port (or Port-a-Cath)
  • Tunneled line/catheter

What are the risks of having a central line?

Central line infections are very serious. Knowing how to properly care for your central line will help prevent complications. If anyone, including a health care provider, is not caring for your line properly, it’s important for you to speak up. By saying something, you increase communication with your health care provider, while hopefully decreasing your own concerns and risk for complications.

When should I call my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if:

  • The flow into your line is slower than usual
  • Your have a feever over 100.5 F (38.0 C) or chills
  • You have redness, swelling, pain or drainage at your line
  • You have a rash after medication administration, or in the area around your line
  • You have a cough or sore throat
  • You have diarrhea more than 3 times a day
  • If you have frequent or burning urination

Accessing/Flushing:

  • Clean your hands with hand sanitizer or soap and water
  • Scrub the hub/cap with an alcohol pad for 15 seconds
  • Flush with saline
  • Administer medications/fluids
  • Flush again with saline
  • Flush with heparin, if instructed by your provider
  • Line should be flushed daily when not in use

Dressing Change:

  • Wear a mask
  • Clean the surface where you put your supplies
  • Clean your hands with hand sanitizer or soap and water and put on clean gloves
  • Remove old dressing
  • Put on sterile gloves
  • Clean the site with chlorhexidine prep for 30 seconds
  • Allow skin to dry
  • Apply and date new dressing that has chlorhexidine

Accessing/Flushing Your Port:

  • Wear a mask
  • Clean your hands with hand sanitizer or soap and water
  • Wear sterile gloves
  • Clean the site with chlorhexidine prep for 30 seconds
  • Allow skin to dry
  • Insert Huber needle by grasping with 2 fingers and pushing into reservoir at a 90 degree angle
  • Draw back to get blood return
  • Flush with saline
  • Port should be flushed every 30 days when not in use

Dressing Change:

  • Wear a mask
  • Clean the surface where you put your supplies
  • Clean your hands with hand sanitizer or soap and water and put on clean gloves
  • Remove old dressing
  • Put on sterile gloves
  • Clean the site with chlorhexidine prep for 30 seconds
  • Allow skin to dry
  • Apply and date new transparent dressing

Video Resources

These videos were created to help you, your family, and your health care team learn how to care for your central line. They are demonstrations ony and are not meant to provide complete instructions for independent care of your central line. Should you have additional questions, contact your health care provider.

Introduction to Central Lines 


Dressing and Cap Changes for Your Central Line

Flushing and Drawing Blood from a Central Line

Accessing and De-accessing Your Implanted Port (if applicable)

Home Care for Your Central Line