Vascular Access and Dialysis

The treatment of many medical conditions — from cancer to kidney disease — often requires repeated blood tests, blood treatments or the delivery of medication or nutrition directly into the bloodstream. To make these treatments as efficient and effective as possible, your doctor may want you to undergo a procedure to have a small tube called a central venous access device implanted through the skin. This device allows safe, direct access to the blood stream without the need for a needle stick every time a treatment is provided.

At University Radiology, our interventional radiologists provide a number of vascular access procedures that are helping patients more comfortably undergo treatments lasting weeks or even months. In some cases, the devices allow patients to receive treatments in the comfort of their own homes. Our procedures include:

PICC lines

A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) is a long, thin, soft plastic tube inserted via a peripheral vein. The PICC line allows you to receive medicines, fluids or have blood specimens drawn. A PICC line stays in place for as long as needed — even as long as 2-3 months.

What are the benefits?
  • Allows delivery of IV medications, IV nutrition, IV chemotherapy, IV fluids, and blood products.
  • Allows drawing of blood without another needle stick.
  • A PICC line can be cared for at home and can stay in place for many weeks or months with a low risk of complications.
How does the procedure work?

Your radiologist or a specially trained physician’s assistant (PA) will numb the skin with a local anesthetic and place a PICC line into a small vein in your arm, using ultrasound guidance. Your provider will then guide the catheter up into the main vein in the center of the chest outside your heart and suture (stitch) the PICC line to hold it in place on the arm. The access site is covered with a sterile bandage. An X-ray is taken to make sure that the catheter is in the right place. It takes 20 minutes for the procedure. Most patients feel little or no discomfort.
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Dialysis catheters

Hemodialysis is a treatment used to remove waste and extra fluid from the blood when your kidneys fail. A dialysis catheter is a soft tube placed in a large vein, often in the neck, and connected to the dialysis machine. The machine removes blood through one opening in the catheter, cleanses it and returns it to the body through a second opening in the catheter. A dialysis catheter is usually used for temporary access until a more permanent access device can be implanted in the arm.

What are the benefits?
  • Can be used immediately for hemodialysis therapy for kidney failure.
  • An option for patients who are not candidates for a permanent access device.
How does the procedure work?

Your interventional radiologist will make a small incision in the skin of the lower neck or upper chest. Using imaging guidance, including ultrasound and X-rays (fluoroscopy), he or she will make a small puncture in one of the veins at the base of the neck. Through that vein, a guide wire is advanced into the superior vena cava — a large central vein that carries blood to the heart. A catheter is slid over the top of the guide wire and into the superior vena cava. Your radiologist will complete the procedure by placing stitches to hold the catheter in place where it was inserted in the skin.
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