Posted: April 24, 2019

PICC lines are used to provide long term intravenous access to administer IV medications, fluids, electrolytes or antibiotics. The lines are placed by doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners who must be aware of the potential dangers these central lines can cause. If complications are not diagnosed and treated properly, serious injury or even death could result.

Changing IV During SurgeryComplications that can occur after PICC line placement include:

  • Air Embolism:  During insertion of the PICC central line, air bubbles can enter the bloodstream causing a decrease in blood pressure, confusion, increased heart rate, chest pain or shortness of breath. If a large amount of air is allowed to enter into the bloodstream, it can prove fatal.
  • Infection:  If not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner an infection of the catheter tip or catheter site can lead to bacteria entering the bloodstream causing sepsis or septic shock.
  • Misplaced Catheter:  After insertion of a central venous PICC line, the position of the catheter tip must be confirmed with an X-ray.  A poorly positioned PICC line can lead to abnormal heart rhythms or fluid pumped into parts of the body. Properly securing or suturing the PICC line after insertion is essential to prevent the PICC line from becoming dislodged from its original site.
  • Nerve Injury:  During insertion of the catheter, if not properly performed, nerves can be injured or damaged, leading to numbness, weakness or paralysis.
  • Catheter Breakage:  A central catheter can break due to improper anchoring or suturing, using the wrong size syringe, or if too much pressure is applied when flushing the line.

Signs of a PICC line complication may include:

  • Fever above 100.4
  • A burning sensation or pain in the arms, back, neck, chest, shoulder or leg
  • Chills
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Difficulties moving
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Strange noises coming from the catheter

Signs of infection around the PICC, such as redness or swelling, may also indicate a PICC complication.

Another problem that can occur with PICC lines is catheter migration, a complication that can be caused by improper insertion. Because a PICC may last from six to twelve months, this complication may occur even after previous successful insertions of catheter tubing.

Symptoms of PICC migration include:

  • Swelling along the vein
  • Hardness along and/or within the vein
  • Thrombosis
  • Pain, redness, or warmth in the area

If you or a loved one had a PICC line and developed a complication that was not properly diagnosed or treated, call Kline & Specter, PC at 800-243-1100 for a case evaluation. Our firm has more than 40 attorneys, five of whom are also medical doctors – the most of any firm in the country. We serve victims of medical malpractice throughout the country from our offices in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. For cases outside those states, Kline & Specter works with local attorneys in each state as applicable.