Vascular Access Procedures

What is it?

When a patient needs to have blood drawn or medication delivered frequently for a long period of time, vascular access procedures are performed to insert a catheter into a blood vessel. The catheter can stay for weeks or years to be easily accessed.

What is for?

  • Blood transfusions
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hemodialysis
  • I.V. treatments
  • For patients with difficulty receiving I.V. treatments
  • Medicine delivery
  • Repeated blood draws
  • When there is a need for long-term access to the blood stream

How to prepare

  • Discuss your medical history with your health care provider
  • Talk with your health care provider about medications you are taking and any allergies you may have
  • You will be given instructions about what to eat and drink prior to the procedure


  • Bleeding from vein or artery damage
  • Infection
  • Disturbance in heart rhythm

What happens during?

  • X-ray or ultrasound imaging is used to determine placement of the catheter
  • The catheter insertion site is numbed with an anesthetic and an incision is made
  • The catheter tip is inserted in a large vein so blood can be reached easily and repeatedly without puncturing the skin

What happens after?

  • Prior to discharge from the hospital, you will be instructed on how to keep the catheter insertion site clean and dry
  • You can usually resume normal activities after several days
  • You should avoid lifting heavy objects for several days following the procedure

Side effects

  • Bleeding, fluid leakage, swelling, tenderness or warmth at the catheter site
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Swelling in the head, neck, shoulder or arm

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