Peripherally inserted central line catheters, or PICC lines, can cause infections, nerve damage, air embolisms or even death due to catheter misplacement

PICC lines are peripherally inserted central venous catheters 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.

Complications that can occur after PICC line placement include:

  • Air Embolism:  During insertion of the PICC central line, air bubbles can enter the blood stream 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 blood stream, it can prove fatal.
  • Infection:  Any infection of the catheter tip or catheter site can lead to bacteria entering the blood stream causing sepsis or septic shock if not diagnosed and treated with the appropriate antibiotics in a timely manner.  Sometimes, an infected catheter will have to be removed and replaced with a new sterile PICC line.
  • 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.  Placing a catheter in the bend of the elbow or antecubital area should be avoided since repetitive bending of the arm could cause the catheter to break.

If you or a loved one had a PICC line and developed a complication that was not properly diagnosed or treated, you may want to learn how you can find a medical malpractice law firm or central line infection lawyer for a free evaluation of your case.