Navigate Up

Seniors Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Y
Z

Print This Page

Central venous catheter - flushing

Alternate Names

Central venous access device - care; CVAD - care

What to Expect at Home

You have a central venous catheter. This is a tube that goes into a vein in your chest. It will help carry nutrients and medicine into your body. It will also be used to take blood when you need to have blood tests.

These catheters are used when people need medical treatment over a long period of time.

  • You may need antibiotics or other medicines for weeks to months.
  • You may need extra nutrition because your bowels are not working correctly.
  • You may be receiving kidney dialysis.

You will need to make sure the skin where the catheter is placed stays healthy. This will help protect you from infection. You will need to check the skin and change the special bandages (dressings) around the site about once a week. See also: Central venous catheter-dressing change

You will also need to rinse out the catheter after every use. This is called “flushing.” Sometimes you will also need to flush it between uses. A friend, family member, caregiver, or your doctor may be able to help you.

It is okay to take showers and baths 7 to10 days after your catheter was put in place. When you do, make sure the dressings are secure and your catheter site is staying dry. Do not let the catheter site go under water if you are soaking in the bathtub.

Supplies You Will Need

Your doctor will give you a prescription for the supplies you will need. You can buy these at a medical supply store. It will be helpful to know the name of your catheter and what company made it. Write this information down and keep it handy.

To flush your catheter, you will need:

  • Clean paper towels
  • Saline syringes (clear), and maybe heparin syringes (yellow)
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Sterile gloves
  • “Sharps” container. This is a special container used for syringes and needles.

How to Flush Your Catheter

You will flush your catheter in a sterile (very clean) way. Follow these steps:

  1. Wash your hands for 30 seconds with soap and water. Be sure to wash between your fingers and under your nails.
  2. Dry with a clean paper towel.
  3. Set up your supplies on a clean surface on a new paper towel.
  4. Put on a pair of sterile gloves.
  5. Remove the cap on the saline syringe and set the cap down on the paper towel. Do not let the uncapped end of the syringe touch the paper towel or anything else.
  6. Unclip the clamp on the end of the catheter and wipe the end of the catheter with an alcohol wipe.
  7. Screw the saline syringe to the catheter to attach it.
  8. Inject the saline slowly into the catheter by gently pushing on the plunger. Do a little, then stop, then do some more. Inject all the saline into the catheter. Do not force it. Call your doctor or nurse if it is not working.
  9. When you are done, unscrew the syringe and put it in your sharps container.
  10. Clean the end of the catheter again with another alcohol wipe.
  11. Put the clamp on the catheter if you are done.

Ask your doctor if you also need to flush your catheter with heparin. Heparin is a medicine that helps prevent blood clots. Follow these steps if you do:

  1. Screw the heparin syringe to your catheter, the same way you attached the saline syringe.
  2. Flush slowly by pushing on the plunger and injecting a little at a time, the same way you did the saline.
  3. Unscrew the heparin syringe from your catheter. Put it in your “sharps” container.
  4. Clean the end of your catheter with a new alcohol wipe.
  5. Put the clamp back on your catheter.

Other Care

Keep all the clamps on your catheter closed at all times. It is a good idea to change the caps at the end of your catheter (called the “claves”) when you change your catheter dressing and after you have blood taken.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse if you:

  • Are having trouble flushing your catheter
  • Have bleeding, redness, or swelling at the catheter site
  • Notice leaking, or the catheter is cut or cracked
  • Have pain near the site or in your neck, face, chest, or arm
  • Have signs of infection (fever, chills)
  • Are short of breath
  • Feel dizzy

Also call your doctor if your catheter:

  • Is coming out of your vein
  • Seems blocked

Updated: 12/27/2012

Jennifer K. Mannheim, ARNP, Medical Staff, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Seattle Children's Hospital; and Shabir Bhimji MD, PhD, Specializing in General Surgery, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Midland, TX. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com