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What Is a Hickman Line?

A hickman line is used in therapies like dialysis that require frequent venous access.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2014
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A Hickman line is an intravenous catheter which is intended for long-term use. Once a patient is fitted with a Hickman line, health care providers have convenient venous access which they can use to draw blood, deliver medications, and perform other tasks related to patient care. It is not necessary to be hospitalized to receive a Hickman line. Patients can care for their long-term intravenous catheters at home with a little bit of training from a nurse or doctor and some supplies provided by a hospital or clinic.

The line consists of a plastic tube which is inserted into a vein in or near the neck, and which exits the chest wall. The precise placement of the line varies depending on the anatomy of the patient. Several medical imaging studies of the neck are usually performed in order to select a good spot for the entrance point, and the positioning of the exit point may be discussed with the patient to find a place which will be accessible and comfortable.

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Patients are sedated or anesthetized for the placement of a Hickman line. Two small incisions are made, one in the chest wall and one in the neck, for the purpose of introducing the flexible tube, tunneling it under the skin, and making sure that it is placed properly in the vein. X-rays or ultrasound are used to confirm that the line is placed properly and then it is stitched in place. Some pain and soreness may be experienced after the surgery.

The Hickman line has a small cuff under the skin which is designed to help the line resist infection while anchoring it in place. Two to three lumens, usually color-coded, are attached to the line at the chest wall. Care providers can use these lumens to deliver chemotherapy, perform dialysis or apheresis, or take blood for analysis. The Hickman line allows medical personnel to provide treatment without having to place needles every time.

Caring for the line requires periodic flushing with anticoagulants to ensure that blood clots do not block the line. The area around the exit also needs to be kept clean to reduce the risk of infection. When there is no longer a need for the Hickman line, as when a patient's chemotherapy is finished, the line is removed. Small stitches may be used to close the incision, and then it will be bandaged so that the patient can heal.

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anon934196
Post 5

My mum is having a hickman line inserted today for the use of feeding her as it is too risky for her to swallow food or drink. This is because they could not insert a nose feed tube. Is the hickman line used for feeding?

bluespirit
Post 4

@runner 101 - From what I know an IV line seems to be typically inserted into your wrist or around that area. A Hickman is inserted near your jugular vein.

runner101
Post 3

I'm going to need an IV line. Is this the same thing as a Hickman line?

amysamp
Post 2

Yes, those purses do make having a Hickman line a bit more fun, especially for kids who need to have one of these.

With kids we usually call them their 'pouches' as you can imagine little boys don't like to say they are carrying a purse!

Saraq90
Post 1

I had a friend that had a Hickman line or PICC line (she used the terms interchangeably so I'm assuming they are the same thing). She had something called primary pulmonary hypertension.

When I met her she was supposed to have passed away from the disease at least 5 years earlier and that was in 2000, and she is still alive.

Luckily specialists created medicine to help her, but because her disease was so severe she needed to have this medicine inserted into her bloodstream constantly. Hence the reason she had the line, but she also had to carry around the little box that kept putting the medicine at regular intervals into the line.

To make it a little more fun for her to have to carry around the little box of medicine, she found a website that made cute bags for the little boxes that attached to the Hickman or PICC line.

I can't remember what the website was but if you have a Hickman line and have to have the attachment for your medicine to be routinely inserted into your line, look for those fun purses!

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