Monday, April 18, 2011

PICC on somebody your own size

 "A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC or PICC line) is a form of intravenous access that can be used for a prolonged period of time (e.g. for long chemotherapy regimens, extended antibiotic therapy, or total parenteral nutrition).

A PICC is inserted in a peripheral vein, such as the cephalic vein, basilic vein, or brachial vein and then advanced through increasingly larger veins, toward the heart until the tip rests in the distal superior vena cava or cavoatrial junction."

I've never been fond of getting PICCs. Call me crazy, but something about having a tube shoved into one of your veins, then rammed all the way up to your heart makes me a little queasy. Okay, so maybe it's not that brutal but it sure feels like it sometimes. This week my disdain for PICC lines reached a whole new level.

I've never been an "easy stick". In my short history with PICCs (my first one was about a year and a half ago) I've been told by multiple people that I have some of the most difficult veins they've ever dealt with. Even with a double dose of sedative, they have a hard time getting my little veins to cooperate.

The PICC I got on Friday ranks near the top of my list of Most Traumatic Life Experiences. Seriously, I think it even beat Lawnmower Severing Achilles Tendon. The first poke was unsuccessful so, after a generous amount of poking and prodding, they chose another vein nearer to the artery. As it was explained to me, there are some nerves that exist around the artery in order to protect it and, well, sometimes those nerves are irritated by the PICC. The first twinge wasn't a big deal - a little bit of tingling was all. But they got much worse after that. Each time they tried to push the line in further, my entire arm felt as if it were being electrocuted, from my shoulder to my fingertips. I've only experienced that level of pain a few other times in my life, and my daughter is a result of one of those.

This is a picture of the "good" one
They finished the procedure and told me to alternate ice and heat on the site to help with soreness and swelling. My arm was so sore that I kept it bent and pulled into my chest for several hours. Later in the evening I reached for something on the nightstand and ZAP! Apparently the PICC was placed just so that when I made certain movements (straightening my arm, twisting my wrist) that irritated nerve sent out a shock. I tried to tell my doctor that I could just keep my arm bent for the next two weeks, but he seemed to think that wasn't a great idea. So Saturday morning I got another PICC. Although it took nearly an hour and it was still a "pain in the ass" (the exact words of the PICC team) it was a much less traumatizing experience.

So, we're now talking about the possibility of a port (a permanent catheter, surgically placed under the skin on the chest). It seems like just about everyone I've talked to loves their port and only wishes they would have gotten it sooner. I didn't really think I was "ready" for a port, health-wise, since I've only ever had 5 or 6 PICC lines, but my doctor and the PICC team seem to think it would be a good idea for me and my particularly difficult veins.

I guess we'll have to see how it turns out. For now, I'm just grateful to have a fully functioning arm again.


  1. Every time I think about this my stomach turns. I don't know how you, Teresa, thousands of other people do that. But I read all the comments on the facebook page and stuff and I started to think I should get a port--hahaha---but the thought of having to flush it every month made me again queasy. Did I tell you that I still cry most times they draw my blood. I'm a wuss.

  2. Wow girl! So sorry about that awful experience. I will say my last picc placement was probably the most difficult for the team although I was fine. It makes me nervous that I'll need a port soon. Im sure I've had over 30 piccs and mostly in my right arm since I got a blood clot in my left. I did experience tingling a lot thisast visit which also makes me nervous. Good luck, I know it's not an easy decision!

  3. That is why I got a port - not because I was super sick, but because my veins were completely shot and we were getting to the point of honestly not being sure we'd ever be able to get another PICC in me. People make a big deal about a port being a sign of CF progressing and mentally hard to take. I felt like that for about 5 minutes after I took the bandages from surgery off of mine - and ever since then I've only been incredibly glad to have it!!! I always had PICC lines that were painful the entire time they were in and really limited my range of motion. With a port, I actually feel much less like a "patient" when I'm on IVs - I'm able to function a lot better and not in continual pain. It's also WAY easier to access than getting a PICC placed!

    So anyway - there's my 2 cents. It doesn't have to be a commentary on your health, just your bad veins. It is SO worth not having the pain and hassle of a PICC.

  4. Sending mendy vibes and hugs your way. Sorry the PICC placements were so rough on you. Tough decision to make. Good luck too.


  5. Oh my god, Jenny. I think I fainted for a few moments there. I almost stopped reading at "lawn mower severing tendon", but forged on.

    You do an amazing job in letting your readers feel what you're going through because my arm hurts and I still feel like I'm going to pass out. (and I'm very familiar with PICC lines!).

    I love reading the other comments too-- I thought I was the only CF wuss scared of needles and tubes coming out of me. When I have a picc I keep the insertion site covered because I faint whenever I see it. Dressing changes kill me.

    Thinking of you. Hoping for easy breezy from now on.

  6. Ditto to Cindy's comments. After a particularly uncomfortable picc insertion, my doc finally convinced me to get a port by saying, "If you ever had an emergency, we wouldn't be able to get a picc line inserted fast enough with all the scarring in your veins." It was the kick in the scaredy-pants I needed to make the decision. Never regretted it.

  7. So sorry to hear about this latest trauma. Two PICCS ago it took them three sticks and I wanted to cry. The nerve thing sound jillion times worse. I hear that ports are the way to go. Thinking about you...


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