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Central venous line - infants

Contents of this page:


Central venous catheter
Central venous catheter

Alternative Names    Return to top

CVL - infants; Central catheter - infants - surgically placed

Information    Return to top

A cental venous line (CVL) is a long, soft plastic tube, called a catheter, that is placed into a large vein in the chest.


The main reason for a CVL is to deliver nutrients to a baby for a long period of time. It is most often used when attempts to place a percutaneous inserted central catheter (PICC) have failed.

Infants most likely to need a CVL include those with certain intestinal problems and who must take IV medicines for a long time.


CVL placement is done in the hospital. The baby will receive pain medicine. The skin is cleaned with a germ-killing solution (antiseptic). The health care provider will make a small surgical cut in the skin away from the vein to be entered. A small metal probe is used to create a narrow tunnel under the skin. The catheter goes through this tunnel, into a vein, and moved close to the heart. The position of the CVL is determined by an x-ray.


There is a small risk of infection. The longer the CVL is in place the greater the risk for infection. Blood clots can form in the large veins leading to the heart. If infection or blood clots form, the CVL may need to be removed and other therapies given. You should talk with your doctor.

Though the catheters are very soft and flexible, at times they can cause the blood vessel wall to wear away, which leads to leakage of the IV fluid or medicine into other body areas. In very rare instances, this can cause serious bleeding and poor heart function.

Update Date: 11/27/2007

Updated by: Deirdre O'Reilly, M.D., M.P.H., Neonatologist, Division of Newborn Medicine, Childrens Hospital Boston and Instructor in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

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