A surgeon inserts a Hickman catheter under the skin of a patient's chest into a large vein to infuse medication and fluids or to take blood samples, instead of inserting a needle into the vein, according to Sutter Health California Pacific Medical Center. Known as a central venous catheter because a surgeon places it into the major vein to the heart, a Hickman catheter is a long, soft silicone tube that has an opening called a lumen.
A surgeon places a patient under general anesthesia to insert a Hickman catheter, explains Sutter Health California Pacific Medical Center. The surgeon inserts the device through a tiny incision near the collarbone, or insertion site. The surgeon places the catheter tip into a vein, and then threads it into a large vein. The surgeon makes a second incision, or exit site, to create a subcutaneous tunnel. Then the surgeon pulls the catheter through the tunnel and out through the exit site.
After surgeons insert Hickman catheters, they use steri-strips, or special surgical tape, to cover the insertion sites, and they attach stitches to the catheters at the exit sites to keep them in place during healing, notes Sutter Health California Pacific Medical Center. The Dacron cuff may create a bulge through the tunnel. As of 2015, BARD Peripheral Vascular manufactures Hickman catheters, according to the company website.