Central venous line - infants

Also known as: CVL - infants and Central catheter - infants - surgically placed


A central venous line (CVL) is a long, soft, plastic tube that is put into a large vein in the chest.


A CVL is often put in when a baby cannot get a percutaneous inserted central catheter (PICC) or midline central catheter (MCC). A CVL can be used to give nutrients or medicines to a baby. It is only put in when babies need IV nutrients or medicines for a long time.


The CVL is put in at the hospital. The health care provider will:

  • Give the baby pain medicine.
  • Clean the skin on the chest with a germ-killing solution (antiseptic).
  • Make a small surgical cut in the chest.
  • Put in a small metal probe to make a narrow tunnel under the skin.
  • Put the catheter through this tunnel, under the skin, into a vein.
  • Push the catheter in until the tip is close to the heart.
  • Take an x-ray to make sure the CVL is in the right place.


Risks include:

  • There is a small risk for infection. The longer the CVL is in, the greater the risk.
  • Blood clots can form in the veins leading to the heart.
  • The catheters can wear away the blood vessel wall.
  • IV fluids or medicine can leak into other parts of the body. This is rare, but this can cause serious bleeding, breathing problems, and problems with the heart.

If the baby has any of these problems, the CVL may be taken out. Talk to your baby's provider about the risks of a CVL.


Santillanes G, Claudius I. Pediatric vascular access and blood sampling techniques. In: Roberts J, ed. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 19.

United States Centers for Disease Control Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. 2011 guidelines for the prevention of intravascular catheter-related infections. www.cdc.gov/hicpac/BSI/02-bsi-summary-of-recommendations-2011.html. Accessed February 4, 2016.

Review date:
March 11, 2015
Reviewed by:
Kimberly G. Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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