Inserting and Removing Central Lines: What to Expect

What is a central line?

A central line is a blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood from your heart to all other organs in your body. It helps keep your body functioning properly. When you are having a stroke or heart attack, the arteries supplying blood to the brain (the cerebral artery) become blocked. Your brain cannot get enough oxygenated blood because there isn’t enough available in the rest of your body. If the blockage continues, you will die.

When a central line is removed, you lose the ability to breathe normally. You may experience shortness of breath, chest pain and difficulty swallowing.

You might feel dizzy or faint. These symptoms usually last only briefly before they disappear completely. However, if your heart stops beating while you are under general anesthesia during surgery, death may occur within minutes without treatment.

How do I know when my central line is out?

The first sign of a leak is when your skin feels cool to the touch. After a few hours, you may notice a slight increase in temperature. If you are concerned about the possibility of leaking, consult with your doctor immediately.

How long does it take for my central line to come back into place?

It takes several days for the blood vessels in your arm to reattach themselves again. Sometimes even weeks may pass before they fully heal and reconnect. During this time, you will notice an increase in temperature and your skin may appear red and itchy. This is usually temporary and not cause for alarm.

Sources & references used in this article:

What Happens to a Discharged Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter? by A Tarasiuk-Rusek, M Laguio-Vila – Open Forum Infectious …, 2015 –

Inserting infection prevention by S Cantrell –

Topics in Progressive Care: Peripherally inserted central catheters: What you should know by DJ McPherson –