A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) infection occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream through or around a central line catheter. A PICC is a long, thin tube that is inserted through a vein in the arm. The catheter is threaded through the arm vein until it reaches a larger vein close to the heart. Commonly called a PICC line, it is used to deliver medicine, nutrition, IV fluids, and chemotherapy.

Veins in the Arm
BU00002_105433_1.jpg
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

If bacteria start to grow on the central line catheter, they can easily enter the blood and cause a serious infection. This can lead to a condition called sepsis, which occurs when bacteria overwhelm the body.

Bacteria normally live on the skin. Since the catheter is inserted through your skin, these bacteria will sometimes track along the outside of the catheter. From the catheter, they can get into your bloodstream.