The PICC Line

During my long endeavors in the hospital, I had to have numerous PICC lines inserted into my body.

What is a PICC line and what does it have to do with Crohn’s?

A PICC (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) line is a tube that is inserted into a vein. It is almost like an IV line, but it is used for a long-term period. It also is used to insert medication, and total parenteral nutrition, otherwise known as TPN. My first PICC line was put in my right arm when I started to use TPN back in 2008.

The process is simple, but it does take a while to get the PICC line in. I remember being taken down to the Radiology department, so they could use special cameras. I guess the doctors wanted to make sure that they placed the PICC line in the right spot. Once the PICC line was placed, they would cap the end off so that I didn’t get an infection.

A PICC line infection

So of course two weeks into my TPN regimen, I started to spike a 103 fever. I remember being in the hospital, and wondering what was wrong. There were two problems. Number one, my immune system was low because of the medications I was taking. I was more prone to infections. Also, the tip of the line can get infected.

The doctors took blood cultures off the tip of the PICC line. In the meantime, they pulled the PICC line from my arm to prevent any more infections. Within six hours, my white blood cell count had gone down, and my fever went away. A few days later, the blood cultures revealed that it was an infection coming from the PICC line. I was going on three or four days now with no TPN. I was just getting IV fluids to stay hydrated.

Replacing the PICC line due to infection

The doctors had to put the PICC line back in, but wanted to give my veins a break from the right side of my arm. They then sent me down to radiology again for the PICC line to be placed. They were able to hook me up to the TPN line again. A few weeks later, the same thing happened. White cell count rose and fever spiked. The doctors didn’t even take the blood work; they just went ahead and pulled the PICC. This went on for a few months. I believe that they had to replace the PICC line in my body four times!

Being careful with a PICC line

I had a PICC line in 2013 when I came down with a quick blood infection from an IV site. When I was told that the PICC line had to be placed to give me antibiotics and send me home, I started to worry. I was very worried about getting an infection. I had so many bad memories. The doctors assured me that the TPN line causes more infections because of the sugar that is in TPN specifically, not just from the PICC.

So do I think PICC lines work? Yep! Do I think you must be careful? Yes, keep your eye out and listen to your body. It’s not just Crohn’s that affects a Crohn’s patient, it’s “the other nonsense” we have to worry about that puts a damper on our emotions!

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