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CVAD: Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter PICC

  • What is a Central Venous Access Device (CVAD)?
    A CVAD is a thin tube that is inserted into a vein, usually in the arm. One end of the CVAD can be seen on the outside of your child’s body, with the other end sitting in one of the major vessels near the heart. 

    Why does my child need a CVAD and how long can it stay in for?
    A CVAD is usually required when medication needs to be given for more than two weeks. A CVAD reduces the amount of needles that your child needs as it can also be used for blood tests. Depending on your child’s treatment, the CVAD may need to stay in place for weeks to months.

    Is there more than one type of CVAD?
    There are many types of CVADs. Depending on your child’s medical needs, the team will choose the best CVAD for them.


    A peripherally inserted central catheter (commonly called a PICC) is a type CVAD that is inserted into a vein in the arm. A PICC is used when treatment needs to be given for two to six weeks. For some children, a PICC will be used for longer than six weeks.

    The dressing covering the PICC and access ports are changed once a week. This can happen either in the hospital or in your home.

    Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC) 


    Common CVAD complications

    • Blockage

    One of the most common problems that happens with CVADs is a blockage inside the tube. This is usually caused by a small blood clot. Most of the time this can be fixed with medication that removes the clot. It takes between two to four hours for this medication to work and it needs to be given in hospital.

    • Falling out

    Your child’s CVAD is well secured, however, it is possible for them to fall out or be pulled out accidentally.

    • Infection

    The team caring for your child’s CVAD will use a cleaning solution to keep the skin and access ports clean. However, germs can still get into the CVAD which may lead to an infection.

    Care at home - preventing infection

    It is important to keep giving your child a bath or shower as this stops germs on the skin. When bathing your child, make sure the dressing and tube remains clean and dry.

    • If your child has a bath, you can use a piece of tape to hold the tube your child’s arm.
    • If your child has a shower, any clean plastic covering can be used to help protect the dressing and tube from water, such as a plastic bag or cling film with tape securing the edges.
    • Your child cannot go swimming while they have a CVAD in place.
    • Make sure the end of the CVAD is kept away from nappies.
    • Keep scissors or any other sharp objects away from your child’s CVAD.

    When to seek medical attention

    • If you are worried about your child’s condition, call an ambulance.
    • Seek medical attention if you notice:
      • Any redness or swelling underneath the dressing or if the dressing is dirty.
      • If any of the access ports or clamps have come undone.
      • If the CVAD has started to or completely come out.
      • Chills or fever.
      • If you have any worries about your child’s condition.

    Emergency management

    If your child’s CVAD falls out in the home or at school, place pressure on the arm where the PICC comes out of the skin and present to the hospital.

    Key points to remember

    • Make sure your child has a bath or a shower once a day and always wash your hands before and after touching the CVAD.
    • Keep sharp objects away from your child’s CVAD.
    • Seek medical attention, present to the emergency department, or call an ambulance if you are worried about your child’s condition.

    For more information

    Common questions our doctors get asked

    Can the CVAD get wet?
    Your child cannot go swimming while they have a CVAD in place. It is important to keep the CVAD dressing clean and dry to prevent infection. Small splashes of water should be wiped off with a clean towel or cloth.

    Can my child play sport?
    Your child should not play any contact sport when the CVAD is in place as this may damage the device. Talk to your health care professional about what activities are safe for your child to do.

    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital CVAD Committee. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.

    Created December 2020.

    Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit


This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.