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Venous Access


Venous access is an interventional, or non-surgical, procedure used to insert long-term catheters used for medication. Patients recommended for venous access require medication delivered directly into their blood stream.

Venous access has become a basic but critical procedure for many patients. At St. Joseph's Heart & Vascular Institute, our specialists – leaders in interventional care – regularly perform venous access.

What is Venous Access?

In venous access, a catheter acts as an entryway into your vein. One end of the catheter is placed in a vein, and the other end exits your body so that your physician can deliver your medicine into your vein through the catheter, or in some cases through a port under the surface of your skin.

Venous access lets your doctor deliver medicine directly into your bloodstream without repeatedly puncturing your blood vessels.

Your physician or vascular surgeon can choose one of four general types of venous access devices. These types are:

  • Short-term peripheral catheters, such as IVs.
  • Peripherally inserted central catheters (PICCs), which are inserted in your arm but are much longer than IVs and can be left in place for longer periods of time.
  • Tunneled catheters placed directly into a large vein in the center of your body (your vena cava) through a tunnel in your chest and left in place for up to several months.
  • Subcutaneous vascular access devices (SVADs), small, round devices inserted under the skin of your chest that may be left in place indefinitely.
  • Your doctor will advise you of the best device for your particular situation.

What to Expect During Venous Access

There are four basic steps to the procedure, regardless of type of device your surgeon uses. During the procedure your surgeon will:

  • Puncture your vein
  • Insert a catheter into your vein
  • Place the tip of the catheter in your vein or in your vena cava
  • Close the point where the catheter exits your body

Most procedures require 30 to 45 minutes to complete. Usually, you will not have to do any special preparation before venous access.

After the procedure:

  • You will spend about one hour in the recovery room.
  • You may have some sedation, so you should arrange for a ride home. You usually can resume normal activities the next day.
  • Keep your incisions and exit sites clean and dry for the first week. You may be advised to apply antibiotic ointment.
  • Your doctor will remove any stitches you may have in about seven to 10 days.