Bloodstream infection, venous thrombosis, and peripherally inserted central catheters: reappraising the evidence

Am J Med. 2012 Aug;125(8):733-41. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2012.04.010.


The widespread use of peripherally inserted central catheters (PICCs) has transformed the care of medical and surgical patients. Whereas intravenous antibiotics, parenteral nutrition, and administration of chemotherapy once necessitated prolonged hospitalization, PICCs have eliminated the need for such practice. However, PICCs may not be as innocuous as once thought; a growing body of evidence suggests that these devices also have important risks. This review discusses the origin of PICCs and highlights reasons behind their rapid adoption in medical practice. We evaluate the evidence behind 2 important PICC-related complications--venous thrombosis and bloodstream infections--and describe how initial studies may have led to a false sense of security with respect to these outcomes. In this context, we introduce a conceptual model to understand the risk of PICC-related complications and guide the use of these devices. Through this model, we outline recommendations that clinicians may use to prevent PICC-related adverse events. We conclude by highlighting important knowledge gaps and identifying avenues for future research in this area.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Bacteremia / etiology*
  • Bacteremia / prevention & control
  • Blood Specimen Collection
  • Blood Transfusion
  • Catheter-Related Infections / etiology*
  • Catheter-Related Infections / prevention & control
  • Catheterization, Central Venous / adverse effects*
  • Catheterization, Peripheral / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Risk Factors
  • Venous Thrombosis / etiology*
  • Venous Thrombosis / prevention & control


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents