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Central venous line - infants


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

Alternative Names

CVL - infants; Central catheter - infants - surgically placed



A central venous line is most often put in when a baby cannot get a percutaneous inserted central catheter (PICC) or midline central catheter (MCC). A central venous line 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 central venous line 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 central venous line is in the right place.


Risks include:

  • There is a small risk for infection. The longer the central venous line 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 central venous line may be taken out. Talk to your baby's provider about the risks of a central venous line.


Center of Disease Control and Prevention website. Guidelines for the prevention of intravascular catheter-related infections, 2011. Accessed December 6, 2017.

Denne SC. Parenteral nutrition for the high-risk neonate. In: Gleason CA, Juul SE, eds. Avery's Diseases of the Newborn. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 69.

Rorke JM, Ramasethu J, Chahine AA. Central venous catheterization. In: Macdonald MG, Ramasethu J, Rais-Bahrami K, eds. Atlas of Procedures in Neonatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013:chap 32.

Review Date:12/13/2017
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, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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Health Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

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