Long-term access to blood vessels for medication, blood samples and more
Expert Heart & Vascular Care
Getting the care you need starts with seeing one of our heart or vascular specialists.
A vascular access device is a type of catheter—a thin, flexible tube—that provides access to blood vessels without the need for repeated needle sticks. There are several reasons why you may need a vascular access device, including long-term IV medication therapy or feeding, frequent need for blood samples and short-term use for patients with kidney failure who need dialysis. These devices can be used to deliver strong medications that otherwise may damage blood vessels.
You and your doctor will discuss which type of device you need and why it’s the best option. The types of vascular access devices include:
- Central venous catheter (CVC): A long catheter put into a large vessel or tunneled under the skin and then placed in the blood vessel that can be used long-term.
- Peripheral IV catheter (PIV): A small device used for a short time and placed in small blood vessels.
- Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC): A long catheter placed in medium-sized blood vessels that can be used long-term.
- Port: A device similar to a CVC, except the entire device is implanted under the skin.
What to expect from vascular access device implantation
After you and your doctor decide which device you need, the skin of the implantation site is cleaned thoroughly. Your doctor may use X-ray or ultrasound guidance to properly place the device. You’ll receive medication to numb the site, and the doctor will make an incision.
Larger devices require your doctor to use a guide wire to see where to place the device in the blood vessel. A guide wire is a wire the doctor inserts into the blood vessel during the insertion procedure. Once the device is in place, the guide wire is removed. Part of the device will remain outside your skin. You’ll receive instructions on how to keep the device clean, dry and in place. Tell your doctor right away if you notice any swelling, pain or soreness at the device insertion site, as this may be a sign of an infection or injury.
If you’re receiving a port, the doctor will create a small pocket under your skin so doctors and nurses can access your port later.
A fluoroscopy is an imaging technique that uses a continuous X-ray beam passed through the body to create real-time, moving images of your internal structures.