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Central venous line - infants

Alternative Names

CVL - infants; Central catheter - infants - surgically placed


A cental venous line (CVL) is a long, soft plastic tube, called a catheter, which is placed into a large vein in the chest.


The main reason for a CVL is to deliver nutrients to a baby for a long period of time. It is most often used when attempts to place a percutaneous inserted central catheter (PICC ) have failed.

Infants with certain intestinal problems who need to get nutrition through their veins, and those who must receive IV medicines for a long time are most likely to need a CVL.


CVL placement is done in the hospital. The baby will receive pain medicine. The skin is cleaned with a germ-killing solution (antiseptic).

The health care provider will make a small surgical cut in the skin away from the vein to be entered. A small metal probe is used to create a narrow tunnel under the skin. The catheter goes through this tunnel, into a vein, and the tip is moved close to the heart. An x-ray is used to place the CVL.


There is a small risk of infection. The longer the CVL is in place the greater the risk for infection. Blood clots can form in the large veins leading to the heart. If an infection or blood clots form, the CVL may need to be removed and other therapies given. 

Though the catheters are very soft and flexible, at times they can cause the blood vessel wall to wear away. This causes IV fluid or medicine to leak into other body areas. In very rare instances, this can cause serious bleeding, breathing problems, and poor heart function.

Talk to your doctor about the risks of a CVL.

Updated: 11/14/2011

Kimberly G Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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