I struggled with hyper - sentitive skin, painful veins and collapsed veins during my chemotherapy. Connecting the IV drip took up to 8 attempts. Blood taking is also very painful and difficult to achieve even though I finished chemo in March. I've now started a year of Herceptin treatment. Yesterday it took 4 attempts to get the drip to flow as they kept hitting valves in my veins. The whole experience is painful and I get really upset and anxious as I know it's going to hurt to much. I also know this is definately going to get worse over the months of treatment, as the veins get used more and more.
Whilst having the Herceptin yesterday, I asked if it might be possible to have a Hickman line or a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PIC / PICC line) fitted, to improve the situation and reduce the discomfort and anxiety I currently experience. The staff were very much in agreement with this idea and I have got a date for the procedure in a couple of weeks time.
I'd like to talk to a few people who can tell me about how they found the experience of having a PICC fitted. Did you find it beneficial? How long and painful was the procedure? Has anyone had a member of their family trained to flush the device each week and if so, how did the family member feel about doing this?
I've been advised to have the PICC line as this is a less invasive procedure. This is because I have had a cluster of small strokes since diagnosis and treatment began and I developed massive blood clots on my lungs after surgery. I now take Clopidogrel tablets every day and inject myself daily with Enoxiparin (Clexane) to reduce the risk of further blood clots. Has anyone else with a recent history of blood clots, had this done?
Thank you for reading this.
i had my p i c c line fitted on thursday, absolutely no pain, went in first time, so pleased, easy to have chemo now and bloods taken,
I have absolutely rubbish veins, apparently they are incredibly small unlike the rest of me 😉 anyway I went to have a PIC line fitted today and after 8 attempts the nurses had to give up. I'm going to have a hickman line fitted now in a couple of weeks after my next Chemo. For me anything is better then struggling to put a cannula in and having permanently black and blue arms! If anyone has any advice re hickman lines I would be pleased hear. Thank you x
Hi Little Meg
Sorry to hear youve had some problems with inserting the picc line. Like you i was looking for info on this recently and i have decided to go with it, i am getting mine inserted next wed 12th (couple days before chemo starts) so reading your post has frightened me a little but the fact that you still recommend it despite your complication makes me feel better.
Hope you are ok now xx
Hello Little Meg, thanks for the update.
So sorry you had such a traumatic start with your PICC, but glad it seems to have settled down now and seems to be behaving itself.
I thoughts I'd just update all of you who so very kindly send me your thoughts and best wishes re: the PICC Line op.
Sorry it's a very late reply, but unfortunately for me, things didn't quite go to plan! The op to fit the PICC Line was 3 1/2 weeks ago. It went fine - much as you said on here, I felt only the prick of the needle to numb my arm. It was done in theatre under a local anaesthetic (injection into the elbow area), and I went home a few hours later that day. I had herceptin treatment using it the same day too. However, due to anti - coagulant meds that I need to take (Enoxaparin / Clexane and Clopidogeral), the bleeding just wouldn't stop! I was rushed back to hospital in the evening and admitted on to the Emergency Admission Unit for 24 hours. It actually bled for 5 days in total and restarted several times after this, for shorter periods. It seems I was right to have some concerns prior, regarding this possibility.
Then, when finally the bleeding had stopped, I got a serious, rapid spreading infection at the insistion point. I was on holiday at the time and had to return early and visited the hospital asap. The doctor wanted it removing immediately, but with a good deal of persuasion she agreed I could keep in over the weekend, to see if the anti - biotics she'd prescribed would help. I have just completed a very heavy duty course of anti - biotics (1000mg X4 daily, for 7 days) and thankfully I have managed to keep the line.
Things may not have gone smoothly - like everything else for me at the moment, but I'm still really glad I had it put in. For anyone else out there who may be wondering if it's worth it - it probably is! Having herceptin and blood taken is a doddle now in comparison. I wish I'd heard of it during chemo!! The only thing i've learnt is that in hind - sight, I think the idea of me remaining on both of high doses of anti - coagulants, was perhaps not so wise an idea. But having one fitted has meant treatment is now completely painless and I'm so much less anxious as a result. Thank you everyone who helped me through this!!
Hi Little Meg,
My skin is so sentative that the first time they removed the sticking dressing to flush my picc line it took the skin with it and left my arm sore, red and itchy, the Cavilon acts as a barrier cream between the skin and the dressing. The Cavilon came as sterile applicators just like a lollipop, 5 applicators in each box.
You should ask for this because it is a god send.
Hello Little Meg
I have had 2 sessions of chemo so far. The first through a cannula just above my wrist about 3 weeks ago(I can still see the bruise).
The second through the PICC which was inserted 2 days before my second chemo.
I had read about PICCs and asked. The Consultant said it wasn't necessary, but the Chemo nurse recommended it when the Consultant changed my chemo to every 2 weeks instead of 3 due to the number of needles for blood tests etc as well as the actual chemo.
Chemo nurse explained it very fully and arranged for me to meet someone who has a PICC so I could see one and ask questions.
She said the veins have to last all your life and may be used for other things in the future, best to preserve them if possible
Having it fitted was not painful for me. The nurse dobbed on local anaesthetic to the inside of my elbow, put cannula into the vein and then fed a very thin blue tube like fine spaghetti with a guide wire inside. I couldn't feel it. It goes up inside your arm across your shoulder and into a large blood vessel close to your heart.
This means the chemo gets more directly into your system and is quicker to administer and doesn't need to be diluted with a saline drip.
It did feel a little tender in my inner elbow for a few days, but really was no problem. It looks a bit bulky, but you soon get used to it.
It is also used to take blood samples - you feel nothing and very quick.
Should you need any antibiotics during your treatment they go through the PICC too.
There is a small length of tube poking out of your inner elbow which is covered and stuck to your lower inner arm then covered with a clear waterproof dressing.
I have to go to the local NHS IV Clinic to have it flushed once during my in betwee week and 2 days before the chemo.
The flush is literally a syringe of water to keep the line clear.
Really quick and you don't feel it at all.
It's a bit unsightly. I bought some pretty cheap socks in Matalan, cut the ends off to cover it. Long sleeves are fine. The PICC doesn't move.
As for the shower - I wrap the area twice round with cling film, seal top and bottom with micropore tape each time. Works for me.
I haven't bothered buying a waterproof sleeve.
So far it has been trouble free for me apart from when I initially had it inserted and the x-ray showed it had gone up my neck rather than round the corner! Still couldn't feel it though.
She pulled it out, re-inserted, eventually went into the right place.
Seems the way to go to me.
Good luck with yours. Let us know how you get on. Don't worry - easy to say I know !!!!!
I can add a resounding yes to a picc, the nurse at onc did mine and rubbed a bit of anaesthetic cream but it was painless. I didnt look as I am a wuss but you go for an xray then to check its sited correctly. Had a bit of discomfort for the first few days settled with hirudoid cream for phlebitis and no probs since then. I dont have a family memeber to flush it for me but every week I have nadir bloods so would have to go in anyway. Check with your gp surgery or district nurses to see if they are trained to deal with picc line and if not that they would consider being trained. My district nurses all trained and do mine weekly and my chemo day centre said they would tran any nurse that wanted training in the day centre. There is video on youtube af havimg picc inserted, i didnt watch it dont know if it would have helped, best not to over analyse anything i guess. At the the end of this, with 11 doses of chemo, 50 or so blood tests, iv antibiotics blood transfusion etc etc I think my veins will still be in tact and about 3 days of my life will be saved in the time saved by having the picc!!!!
I tried to reply to this earlier on my phone, but nothing seems to have come through.
I had a picc line fitted throughout chemo and also kept it for the first few herceptin's. It was the best thing I could have done. Ok it was a bit of a nuisance not being able to shower properly and having to get it cleaned every week, which was done by the District Nurse on the weeks I wasn't going to oncology.
I had it for a total of 7 months. I would have kept it longer, as I had no problems with it and no infections, but I did start to get fed up with people asking what was wrong with my arm.
The District Nurse used Cavilon Spray, as sometimes my arm would get sore when the dressing was taken off. I loved having this sprayed on, as it was really refreshing.
I hope this is some help. PM me if you want.
Hello Bev and Manxcat,
Thanks so much for your responces. I'm really nervous about the idea of having it, but I can see how it may be of benefit too. The way I see it, if I'm getting so much anxiety, pain and discomfort already, how I am going to cope with having treatment in 2 months or 6 months... time! I think I'll have to have a line sooner or later anyway, so why not take control of the situation and do it early on and make the whole experience less traumatic?
Reading your experiences has been a real help to me. Thank you so much for taking the time to write a reply to me.
Manxcat, I've not heard of Cavilon. What does it do? How is meant to help? I ask because I experience skin sensitivity too and wonder if this is something worth asking about at some point. I get allergic reactions to micropore tape and dressings on my arm when left in contact for more than about 10 minutes - particularly on my arms and have sensitivity to pain all over. What type of sensitivity do you experience?
Many thanks for your help. I hope treatment is well for both of you.
I also had a picc line in for 4 months would really say it was for the best, makes life so much easier.
Having the picc line put in was fine, took around 15/20min,did not feel a thing. I bought a sleeve to cover may arm for a shower but I found it very difficult to put on, you need two hands really, when hubby was around that was great otherwise I had baths instead.
My skin was very sensitive and I had to use Cavilon (you can get this on perscription) which is a barrier cream that was put on before the dressing, the picc line was washed thru every week by the chemo team, and they knew how to keep the line comfortable with dressings trail and error with everyone. Hope this helps.
Hi Meg, I had my PICC line for 4 months. I had problems similar to yours and requested the line to help. The insertion was done under local I think, trained nurse put it in and I don't remember it being too bad having it done, I didn't look while it was done but after there was some mess with blood. It was no worse than having bloods taken and I was fine straight away.
It made having chemo and having bloods done a doddle but more hassle as had to go and wait in the cancer unit usually for longer than going to path lab as the phlebotomists were not trained to deal with lines so had to be taken by nurses trained to deal with PICC lines.
My district nurse came on the weeks I didn't go for chemo as the line has to be flushed weekly, but you may be asked to go back to your treatment unit for this.
I did have some problems with irritation of the line in the vein but it was dealt with, and a couple of infections and had courses of antibiotics to deal with them, usually 10 day courses. The initial irritation does settle down in about 10 days to 2 weeks though.
The bit they put med/chemo through are neatly put under dressings and waterproof dressings and need to be kept dry but I showered carefully and gently patted it dry and had no bother but most ppl get a waterproof sleeve to wear from boots or can be ordered online, cost @ £10 i think, I can't remember what it's called but someone may help you out with that! (Some units give you the sleeve I think).
Even with all the faffing around I would have one around I would have a PICC again, had to have bloods taken this morning and as the line was removed a couple of weeks ago the nurse had enormous problems and ended up using very small vein in back of my hand and got such a small amount they used infant blood specimen bottles so they got what they needed, I wish it was still in situ!
Hope you have a good experience, I was so nervous but it was so much easier having it fitted than I thought it would be and not as uncomfortable. Best wishes Bev x