Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Problem with PICC Lines

Ok, so the title of this post might be a little misleading.  There are, in fact, numerous problems/nuisances that go hand-in-hand with having a tube sticking out of your arm.  For instance, you are unable to shower without suiting up your entire upper arm in layer upon fashionable-but-oh-so-stiff layer of Press-N-Seal saran wrap, followed by a ziplock baggie with the bottom cut out, which is then held in place with several rounds of waterproof medical tape (and, after all that, it still only seems to work about 1/2 the time!).  Another, more minor, example of a problem that arises when medical tubing is protruding from your body is the fact that, well, it hurts!  Along with the puncture site, there are the tube clips that dig into your arms when you try to cover the area with an ace bandage or some other kind of "sleeve" to keep all the tubes from dangling everywhere anytime you move.

Along those lines, I find the specific "problem" I'd like to address tonight (a/k/a the one that's currently bothering me):  the adhesive bandaging.  Up until today, I have actually been extremely impressed with how well my body has adapted to the PICC line and how little I've noticed it's there.  Again, it's kinda hard to miss a tube coming out of your arm, but the position of the line and the bandaging have all caused minimal discomfort or interference with my daily life.  Until today.  The home nurse came today to take blood samples and the change the dressing (even though that really wasn't necessary since they did it in the hospital on Friday).  While changing the dressing, she specifically asked me I'd like the tubes pointing upward or downward, and I said I'd like to keep them upward.  However, perhaps because we were chatting too much, she ended up doing the complete opposite:  the tubes are pointing downward, right into the crook of my elbow, and the tape from the adhesive bandage is also in my elbow crease, which means I can't fully extend my arm.  Furthermore, something about the way this bandage was put on feels like it is uncomfortably pulling on my skin no matter if I try stretching my arm out or bending it in.  Argh!  The bandage that was on before today was perfect - it was placed high enough that it did not restrict my arm movements and the adhesive wasn't so strong that it was already causing skin irritation.  I hate to bother her again, but this just won't do.  All I can focus on is how uncomfortable my arm is - this simply will not fly for another week, so I'll be calling her in the morning.

Ok, and now as a closing note, I want to acknowledge how amazing PICC lines.  The initial insertion of the line is a bit painful, yes, but not nearly as bad as needing to have a new IV put in every few days!  And beyond that, it allows those patients who otherwise have no need to be in the hospital to leave the hospital and conduct their intravenous treatments at home.  It allows you to continue with your normal life, whether that is at school, work, chasing your small children,or  buying your wedding gown.  Plus, and perhaps most importantly, PICC lines can make you feel better almost instantly!  I have now been on IVs for merely a week, and can already tell that I feel stonger and have more energy and breath to laugh with my family and fiance.  Though a pain to keep up with, these home IVs cold great power to heal.

And now, fellow CF-patents and friends - does anyone else out there have a PICC right now?  What is "the problem" that is bothering you this time?  Also - does anyone have a good way of getting residual adhesive sticky off of my skin?  Any advice would be appreciated!


  1. I don't currently have a PICC line, but my problem with all PICCs is I am super allergic to all adhesive. Within days of a PICC my arm gets covered in awful, itchy, oozy blisters. :(

    Hope you feel 100% soon. As for residual adhesive stickiness, you can ask your nurses to give you adhesive remover wipes. Okay, that isn't the real name, but they have little wet wipes that are made to remove the stickiness. If I ask they will send some home with me.

    Also, I totally had a PICC in all of your scenarios above except the one about chasing your kids.

  2. This time around I have the itchy, oozy blisters, too. I remember some skin irritation from the last time I had a PICC, but I think these are new (and oh so fun!) They're especially bothersome right after a new bandage is placed over them/the PICC. When my home nurse changed my bandage yesterday, I nearly went insane from the itching/burning over the next few hours. I can't wait until I can wash that part of my arm and just let it "breathe" again! I think I've seen your post with the picture of your blistered arm, though, and I have to say mine aren't quite that bad. Poor thing! I hope you're holding up ok with the new PICC and that this time your skin is quite so reactive.