What’s the Difference between a CVC and a PICC?

Hand with peripheral venous catheter and equipment to dose epidural during delivery There are lots of different types of medical tubes and catheters that are used by doctors to access your blood, whether you’re giving blood samples or receiving dialysis. The most commonly used one is called a standard IV, which is placed in the hand or the arm, and is probably the most recognizable by the average person.

If you’re receiving dialysis access or another type of treatment, you might have heard of a central venous catheter (CVC) as well as a peripherally inserted central venous catheter (PICC). Both are used to help doctors access and clean your blood during dialysis treatment. We’ll discuss the differences between these two catheters and what you need to know for your own health plan.

Central Venous Catheter

A central venous catheter, or CVC, is a flexible Y-shaped tube that is inserted through one of the central veins in our bodies. Compared to a standard IV, CVCs are placed much deeper within the vein and are meant to last for much longer as well. Standard IVs are typically only used for a few hours at a time, while CVCs can remain in place for days, weeks, or even months.

The end of the Y-shaped tube will have two tubes that are visible outside of the body and serve as access to the bloodstream. When they are not in use, they will be capped off. CVCs are good options for a patient who needs an immediate or emergency catheter and don’t require the usage of any needles.

CVCs are used for administering medications, certain types of chemotherapy, drawing blood, or receiving dialysis access treatment.

Peripherally Inserted Central Venous Catheter

A peripherally inserted central venous catheter is a type of central venous catheter that is placed in the upper arm as opposed to the neck or groin area. It is then threaded until the tip reaches the largest vein in your body close to your heart.

It is shaped the same way as the CVC, with a Y-shaped end that sits externally on the chest. This type of catheter is often used for patients who need an extended course of medication, like antibiotics, or for chemotherapy in some cases.

Instead of going to the hospital for repeated injections, getting a PICC may be an easier option for patients who need long-term medicine injections.

Learn More Today

If you’d like to learn more about CVCs or PICCs, schedule a consultation with a provider at the Vascular Institute in Virginia at our Fredericksburg or Woodbridge, VA locations by calling 703-763-5224.

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