We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Central Line Catheter?

By Amanda Piontek
Updated Feb 22, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A central line catheter, also known as a central venous catheter, is a thin, flexible tube that inserted into a vein and threaded to the heart or central vein of the chest. This device allows a medical professional to administer medications and blood transfusions as well as obtaining blood samples. A central venous catheter can also assist in monitoring and recording different types of blood pressure. This is normally a routine outpatient procedure. In an external central line catheter, the tubing exits through the skin, while an internal catheter does not have an exit point.

The decision to introduce a catheter can be driven by many different reasons and situations. If a patient routinely receives fluids, medications, and nutritional supplements intravenously, the patient's doctor might consider inserting a central line catheter. The placement of a central line eliminates or drastically reduces the amount of injections and intravenous catheters in the arm. This can preserve the health of the patient's veins and skin, since frequent needles and specialized medications can be damaging.

A doctor generally inserts a central venous catheter while the patient is in a hospital receiving anesthetic medication. The doctor makes a small incision, and threads the catheter into the body. An internal catheter is closed into the body at this point, while an external catheter requires a second incision for the exit site. The doctor secures the line with stitches and applies a sterile dressing to the location where the catheter exits the body.

External and internal central line catheters are selected for different reasons. An internal central line catheter requires a needle to deliver the medication through the skin and into the tubing; therefore, an external catheter is preferable if the patient will be using the line often. Since external lines exit the skin, however, the caregiver must be careful to keep them clean in order to prevent infection. An internal catheter, however, is enclosed in the body and does not require special dressings or extensive care.

One benefit of the central venous catheter is that is allows medications to be administered in the comfort of the patient's home. For an individual receiving frequent or routine medications and intravenous nourishment, constant trips to the hospital or inpatient hospital therapy can be difficult and uncomfortable. A central line catheter allows a caregiver or home health aide to easily administer medications outside of the hospital. The patient's caregiver must be well educated in the care and cleaning of a central line as well as prepared to contact a healthcare professional if there are any signs of a catheter infection or complication.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On Jul 25, 2014

Having an IV placed is bad enough. I don't think I'd want to even try a central line or PICC line unless I was completely under. I'd be a basket case.

I know a PICC line is a totally different animal, but when I think about how sore my hand was when I had my wisdom teeth out and they placed the IV there, I know I wouldn't want a PICC line or central line unless they were absolutely necessary.

They do keep a person's veins from being terribly damaged by medication or constant access, but it just makes my arm ache to think about it!

By Grivusangel — On Jul 24, 2014

A central line also has less chance of closing up or getting blocked, like a fistula line can do. That's usually for dialysis patients. They're much easier to care for, and since they're near the chest, are usually covered by clothing.

The only other central line that's as easy to maintain is a PICC line in the upper arm. A PICC line insertion is usually done under local anesthesia, although if a patient is having surgery, and the doctor knows the patient will need a PICC line placed, he or she may go ahead and do it while the patient is under anesthesia.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.