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Vascular Access Procedures

Scheduling and Directions

Vascular access procedures involve the insertion of a catheter into a blood vessel to provide a painless way of drawing blood or delivering drugs or nutrients over a period time. Special X-rays are used to guide the placement of the catheter into the blood vessel. Vascular access procedures are performed when patients need:

  • Intravenous (IV) antibiotic treatment
  • Chemotherapy, or anti-cancer drugs
  • Long-term IV feeding for nutritional support
  • Repeated drawing of blood samples
  • Hemodialysis, a process used to treat patients whose kidneys are not working properly.

Unlike the catheter used in a standard IV line, a vascular access catheter is more durable and does not easily become blocked or infected. Vascular access catheters are designed to extend into the largest central vein near the heart. We perform vascular access procedures to insert these major types of catheters:

  • Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) – A long catheter that extends from an arm vein into the largest vein near the heart
  • Arm and chest ports – A catheter attached to a small reservoir, both of which are placed under the skin similar to tunnel catheters
  • Central line – A catheter that is inserted in the neck or chest through the skin into a large vein and threaded through this vein until it reaches a large vein near the heart
  • Tunnel Catheter – A catheter that uses a cuff to stimulate tissue growth that will help hold the catheter in place in the body. This catheter is used in temporary and permanent dialysis and is the best choice when access to the vein is needed for a long period of time.

Preparing for Your Vascular Access Procedure

Vascular access procedures usually are done on an outpatient basis. You should plan to have someone drive you home after your procedure is complete.

Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your exam. You should arrive two hours before your procedure so that we can do the necessary lab work to determine how well your kidneys function and how well your blood clots.

Bring a list of medications that you are currently taking and a list of any allergies. If you think you may be pregnant, inform the nurse or technologist immediately.

During Your Vascular Access Procedure

Your nurse will place an IV in your hand or upper arm in case any medication or sedation is necessary during your procedure. A specially-trained interventional radiologist will use an ultrasound to determine which vein the catheter will be placed into. You will be lying flat or slightly elevated during the procedure. Once the vein is identified, the site where the catheter will be placed will be sterilized and draped with a sterile cover. A nurse will monitor your heart rate and blood pressure during the procedure.

You will be asked if you would like sedation during the procedure to make you feel relaxed and sleepy. Your doctor will make a small cut (incision) on your body and insert the catheter through the incision into the vein. You may feel some pressure during the procedure while the catheter is being inserted.

After Your Vascular Access Procedure

After the procedure, you will have to lie flat for at least 30 to 45 minutes while you continue to be monitored by a nurse. You may experience some bruising, tenderness or swelling. Once you are ready to go home, your nurse will give you instructions on how to care for your catheter

The radiologist who performed your vascular access procedure will analyze the images and send a signed report to your primary care or referring physician, who will share the results with you.

Scheduling and Directions

Your physician will contact us to schedule your vascular access procedure for you.

If your vascular access procedure will be performed at Emory Decatur Hospital, you will go to the hospital’s central registration area.

  • From North Decatur Road, enter the hospital campus via Wash Lively Road.
  • At road end, turn right. (Note: If you are in a wheelchair or need to be dropped off at the entrance, turn left and proceed to the Central Registration patient drop-off which is on the right just past the main hospital entrance. Your driver should then turn around and continue to the Visitor/Patient parking deck.)
  • At stop sign, turn left and park in the Visitor/Patient parking deck.
  • Take any elevator or stairs to the 3rd level.
  • Proceed to the Pedestrian Bridge to the hospital.
  • Take bridge straight ahead to the escalators.
  • Take escalators down one level.
  • Once off escalators, turn right and immediately left and follow the directions to the hospital main lobby.
  • Proceed past the hospital Gift Shop on your right.
  • Once in the main lobby, follow the hallway to Central Registration.
  • At the end of hallway, turn left.
  • Central Registration is on the right.

If your vascular access procedure is being performed at Emory Hillandale Hospital, go to the hospital’s registration area.

  • Park in the hospital parking lot.
  • Proceed to the main entrance of the hospital.
  • Registration is directly on the right – you must register before proceeding to the Imaging Department.
  • When you have completed registration, a staff member will direct you to the Imaging Department.

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