A central line is a long, thin tube that your nurse inserts into a vein in your chest. This is usually done under local anesthesia. Central lines are sometimes called skin-tunneled central venous catheters or Hickman® lines. They are used to deliver chemotherapy treatment or other drugs. A central line can stay in until the chemotherapy has finished.

Your doctor will make a small cut in the skin near the collar bone and thread the tip of the line into a large vein leading toward your heart. The other end of the line is tunneled under the skin and comes out on your chest. Your doctor will put a stitch in to keep it secure. You will have an x-ray done to check that the line is in the correct position.

The exit site is cleaned, usually once a week, and the line is emptied in order to prevent blockage. Get in touch with your doctor if you experience swelling, pain, or notice fluid at the exit site or if you feel unwell. These may be symptoms of infection or blood clot.