PICCs in cancer patients


Intravenous literature: Yamada, R., Morita, T., Yashiro, E., Otani, H., Amano, K., Tei, Y. and Inoue, S. (2010) Patient-reported usefulness of peripherally inserted central venous catheters in terminally ill cancer patients. Journal of Pain & Symptom Management. 40(1), p.60-6.


CONTEXT: Oral administration of medication is often difficult in terminally ill cancer patients, and a subcutaneous route is traditionally one of the most preferred parenteral routes. Recent studies suggest, however, that some patients and families prefer the intravenous route, and peripherally inserted central venous catheters (PICCs) are actively used in oncology settings. Nonetheless, in the palliative care setting, no empirical studies have investigated the patient-perceived usefulness of PICCs.

OBJECTIVES: The primary aim of this prospective observational study was to clarify the levels of patient-perceived comfort and convenience, in addition to procedure-related distress, resulting from the use of PICCs by terminally ill cancer patients.

RESULTS: Among 219 patients admitted to a palliative care unit during the one-year study period, 39 (18%) patients underwent a PICC insertion trial (a total of 44 procedures were performed because five patients underwent PICC insertion twice). Of the 44 procedures, 38 (86%) were successful, requiring a mean of 23+/-7.9 minutes, without serious procedure-related complications. Patient-reported levels of procedure-related distress were not distressing (68%), slightly distressing (8%), and distressing (24%). Patient-reported comfort levels with parenteral access were becoming more comfortable (94%) and no change (6%). Patient-reported convenience levels of parenteral access were becoming more convenient (94%) and no change (6%). Complications were reversible catheter coagulation (10%), irreversible catheter coagulation (8%), and mild levels of edema of the upper extremity (8%). The PICCs remained in place in 82% of the patients until death. The median period of placement was 15 days, with the longest placement being 81 days.

CONCLUSION: PICCs were safely inserted in about 90% of terminally ill cancer patients within about 20 minutes. Although 30% of the patients experienced transient mild procedure-related distress, more than 90% of the patients felt that the parenteral route was more comfortable and convenient after the procedure. PICCs may provide a safe, comfortable, and convenient alternative for terminally ill cancer patients, if placement of the PICC is individualized to the patient situation and after alternatives are considered. Further studies are needed to compare the superiority of the PICC and traditional subcutaneous route to clarify what types of patients are the most suitable for each procedure.


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