Loading icon
Press enter or spacebar to select a desired language.
Health Information Center

Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter Infections

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter Infections


A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) infection is a serious health issue. The infection happens in the bloodstream. It affects those with a central line catheter. A PICC is a long tube inserted through a vein in the arm. It is commonly called a PICC line. It is used to give medicine, nutrition, IV fluids, and chemotherapy.

Veins in the Arm.

BU00002_105433_1.jpghttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=79007900BU00002_105433_1.jpgArm veinsNULLjpgBU00002_105433_1.jpgNULL\\hgfiler1\intellect\images\BU00002_105433_1.jpgNULL105NULL2009-10-055403237900_550125360215Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

A PICC infection can lead to sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition.


A PICC infection is caused by bacteria on a central line catheter. From the catheter, they can get into the bloodstream. This can happen from bacteria that normally live on the skin.

Risk Factors

Things that raise the risk of PICC infection are:

  • Severe illness
  • A weak immune system
  • An infection elsewhere in the body or skin
  • Using a catheter for more than 48 hours
  • Problems with the catheter
  • A catheter that is not coated with an anti-germ substance


Symptoms of a PICC infection may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fast heart rate
  • Redness, swelling, or tenderness at the catheter site
  • Drainage from the catheter site


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done.

Tests will be done to diagnose the infection. They may include:


The goal of treatment is to clear the infection. This involves:

  • Antibiotics—medicines to treat the infection
  • Central line care—often, taking out the PICC line and replacing it with a new one


Proper catheter care and cleaning can help reduce the risk of a PICC infection.





  • Central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/HAI/bsi/bsi.html.
  • Central venous catheter. American Thoracic Society website. Available at: https://www.thoracic.org/patients/patient-resources/resources/central-venous-catheter.pdf.
  • Central venous catheter. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/procedure/central-venous-catheter.
  • Saugel, B., Scheeren, T.W.L., et al. Ultrasound-guided central venous catheter placement: a structured review and recommendations for clinical practice. Crit Care, 2017; 21 (1): 225.


  • Nicole Meregian, PA
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.