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Central venous catheter - dressing change

Alternate Names

Central venous access device - dressing change; CVAD - dressing change

What to Expect at Home

You have a central venous catheter. This is a tube that goes into a vein in your chest. It will help carry nutrients and medicine into your body. It will also be used to take blood when you need to have blood tests.

These catheters are used when people need medical treatment over a long period of time.

  • You may need antibiotics or other medicines for weeks to months.
  • You may need extra nutrition because your bowels are not working correctly.
  • You may be receiving kidney dialysis.

Dressings are special bandages that block germs and keep your catheter site dry and clean. You will learn how to change your dressing. You should change the dressing about once a week. You will need to change it sooner if it becomes loose or gets wet or dirty. After some practice, it will get easier. A friend, family member, caregiver, or your doctor may be able to help you.

It is okay to take showers and baths 7 to10 days after your catheter was put in place. When you do, make sure the dressings are secure and your catheter site is staying dry. Do not let the catheter site go under water if you are soaking in the bathtub.

See also: Central venous catheter - flushing

Supplies You Will Need

Your doctor will give you a prescription for the supplies you will need. You can buy these at a medical supply store. It will be helpful to know the name of your catheter and what company made it. Write this information down and keep it handy.

To change your dressings, you will need:

  • Sterile gloves
  • Cleaning solution
  • A special sponge
  • A special patch, called a Biopatch
  • A clear barrier bandage, either Tegaderm or Covaderm

Changing Your Dressings

You will change your dressings in a sterile (very clean) way. Follow these steps:

  1. Wash your hands for 30 seconds with soap and water. Be sure to wash between your fingers and under your nails.
  2. Dry with a clean paper towel.
  3. Put on a pair of sterile gloves.
  4. Gently peel off the old dressing and Biopatch.
  5. Check your skin for redness, swelling, or any bleeding or other drainage around the catheter.
  6. Clean the skin with the sponge and cleaning solution. Dry after cleaning.
  7. Place a new Biopatch over the area, with the grid side up.
  8. Peel the backing from the clear plastic bandage (Tegaderm or Covaderm) and place it over the catheter.
  9. Write down the date you changed your dressing.
  10. Remove the gloves and wash your hands when you are done.

Other Care

Keep all the clamps on your catheter closed at all times. It is a good idea to change the caps at the end of your catheter (called the “claves”) when you change your dressing.

When to Call your Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse if you:

  • Are having trouble changing your dressings
  • Have bleeding, redness or swelling at the site
  • Notice leaking, or the catheter is cut or cracked
  • Have pain near the site or in your neck, face, chest, or arm
  • Have signs of infection (fever, chills)
  • Are short of breath
  • Feel dizzy

Also call the doctor if your catheter:

  • Is coming out of your vein
  • Seems blocked

Review Date: 1/30/2009
Reviewed By: Joseph P. Hart, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Medical University of Southern Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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