WHAT IS A HICKAMAN CATHETER?

A Hickman’s catheter is a long narrow tube that is made of silicon and is inserted into a large vein in chest, such that one end of the tube lies inside the vein and the other end remains outside the body.

Hickman’s catheter is a type of tunneled catheter, since a segment of catheter between both then ends is tunneled under the skin. A cuff is attached to it, which protects it from infection and keeps the line stable in its place.

Hickman’s line can may have one, two or three channels, which separately open inside and outside the body and let you do a variety of tasks. Let us see the indications of this central venous catheter.

INDICATIONS OF A HICKMAN’S CATHETER

  • Hickman’s line is used in cases where the treatment continues over a couple of weeks.
  • Few types are used specifically for plasmapheresis and apheresis
  • A route for taking blood samples frequently without puncturing the peripheral veins repeatedly
  • Administration of drugs and fluids during a long-term treatment
  • Hickman’s catheter provides with a greater freedom of movement.

 

HICKMAN CATHETER INSERTION AND REMOVAL

The hickman’s catheter is inserted under general anesthesia by a radiologist or a surgeon, with your oxygen levels, heart rate and blood pressure being constantly monitored.  The line is inserted through either subclavian vein or the jugular vein.

A small incision is made at the site of entry, vein punctured and a wire is inserted through the needle into the vein, which then progresses along the length of the vein. Hickman’s line is passed from the exit site to the insertion site, measured and then cut to fit the length of the vein. A sheath is placed over the wire and into the vein at the site of entry. The wire is then removed and the free end of the hickman’s catheter is placed down through the sheath.  A small dressing is put over each of the sites (insertion and exit).

Since the line adheres to the overlying skin, the hickman catheter removal is not easy. Once again after a local anesthetic is given and the area is numb, a small incision is given in the skin around the area of the line allowing to be released. Once the cuff is free to move, your line is releases easily. This is followed by a few stitches, which are removed in 7-10 days.

COMPLICATIONS

Before a hickman’s catheter is inserted, make sure you discuss the procedure in detail with your surgeon and also learn about its risks and benefits. The following are a couple of risks associated with the catheter placement;

  • Bacterial infection
  • Pneumothorax
  • Bleeding infection
  • Thrombosis
  • Phlebitis

These risks have low chances and if proper protocol is followed, care is taken and the case is handled by a professional, then occurrence of such complications is rare.