Vascular Access Procedure

A vascular access procedure involves inserting a flexible thin plastic tube (catheter) into a blood vessel to provide a painless way of drawing blood or delivering drugs and nutrients into a patient's bloodstream over a period of weeks, months or even years.

An I.V. is effective for short-term use, but is not suitable for long-term use. When an I.V. is necessary for a longer period of time and/or a more secure venous access is necessary, a special catheter, called a central access catheter, or a similar device is placed inside a major blood vessel either temporarily (days) or long-term (weeks to years) so that it can be easily and repeatedly accessed over a desired period of time.

In a vascular access procedure, a special catheter is inserted inside a major vein (generally in one of the large veins in the neck or in the arm) extending into the large central vein near the heart.

Common Uses of Vascular Access Procedures

Vascular access procedures are performed when patients need:

  • Intravenous antibiotic treatment
  • Chemotherapy, or anti-cancer drugs
  • Long-term I.V. feeding for nutritional support
  • Repeated drawing of blood samples
  • Hemodialysis, a process used to treat patients whose kidneys are not working properly. It involves a special machine and tubing that removes blood from the body, cleanses it of waste and extra fluid and then returns it back to the body

Access catheters may also be used for:

  • Blood transfusions
  • Patients who have difficulty receiving a simple IV line

Vascular access procedures are commonly performed in children for similar reasons and with similar techniques and devices as in adults. Examples of reasons for vascular access procedures in children include:

  • Intravenous antibiotic treatment
  • Chemotherapy
  • Long-term I.V. feeding for nutritional support
  • Hemodialysis
  • Blood transfusions
  • Patients who have difficulty receiving a simple I.V.