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Care of Hickman Lines

Updated April 17, 2017

A Hickman line is a type of central line, which is inserted through the skin and into one of the veins leading to the top of the heart. According to CancerBackup.org.uk, Hickman lines are used to deliver medicine, such as antibiotics, directly into the body or to take blood samples. Hickman lines are cared for by clinical staff, such as nurses, and the patient who has the Hickman line. The patient's ability to care for the line and its supplies is key for preventing infection and blockage in the Hickman line tube.

Preventing Infections

Prevent infection around the Hickman line by keeping it free of bacteria. The Capital Health of Nova Scotia recommends washing hands with soap and water before touching the Hickman line or the skin surrounding it. Other recommendations include wearing a mask when touching the Hickman line if the person or any nearby people have a cold. This prevents the spread of germs. Change the dressing around the Hickman line if it gets wet or becomes dirty.

If redness, pain or inflammation develops around the Hickman line, seek medical help immediately. Also seek help if discoloured fluid flows from the area where the line is located. This can indicate an infection.

Proper Storage

Store all Hickman line supplies in a clean, dry place where the items are safe from damage. Keep it in a cupboard or closet not accessible by children or pets, who may touch or play with the supplies.

Before using any Hickman line supplies, such as syringes or cloth dressings, carefully check the paper and plastic covers protecting each item. Make sure they are not wet, do not have any water stains or do not look ripped. If they look compromised in any way, throw them out.

Also look at the expiration date on all supplies before use. If the expiration date has passed, do not use those supplies.

Touching the Line

The Sheffield Thoracic Institute strongly advises patients to avoid tugging on the line during the first two to three weeks of using a Hickman line. This can change the position of the Hickman line or the stitches holding the line in place.

Changing the Dressing

Change the cloth dressing surrounding the Hickman line every two days. According to the Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, dressing should be changed immediately after it gets damp or wet. Always wash hands and make sure the skin surrounding the line is dry before reapplying a new cloth dressing.

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