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Central Venous Access Catheters (CVAC)

What is a Central Venous Access Catheter (CVAC)?

A CVAC is a small tube that is inserted beneath your skin to quickly and easily allow physicians or nurses to draw your blood or give you medication or nutrients. By having a CVAC inserted ahead of time, you can avoid the sometimes painful and annoying process of having needle pricks every time you need an infusion or need to have blood drawn.

Common Questions

  • Why would my physician recommend a CVAC?

    Your physician may recommend a CVAC if you have a condition in which you regularly receive any of the following:

    • Chemotherapy treatments
    • Infusions of antibiotics or other medications
    • Nutritional supplements
    • Hemodialysis
  • What are the different types of CVACs?

    There are several types of CVACs from ones that are placed directly through the skin into the vein, to ones placed completely under the skin, and those in between. The type of CVAC your physician recommends for you may depend upon your condition, activity level and age. Catheter types include:

    • PICC Line – PICC stands for peripherally inserted central catheter. This type of catheter is inserted into a vein in the arm and is intended for use for a few weeks or several months.
    • Tunneled Catheter – This type of catheter is inserted into a vein in the neck or chest. The tube passes under the skin and one end of it remains outside the skin, allowing easy access for infusions to be given/blood to be drawn.
    • Implanted Port (Mediport) – This is the least obvious type of catheter. It is placed entirely under the skin. When blood needs to be drawn or medicines given, it is done through a prick to the skin and into the catheter.
  • What do I need to do before my procedure?

    You will be given detailed instructions by our staff before your procedure. In general, do not eat, drink or smoke anything after midnight the night before your procedure. This includes breath mints, gum and tobacco. Patients should notify staff if they are diabetic, taking anticoagulants (blood thinners) or allergic to anesthesia. Be sure to bring your insurance card, photo ID, list of current medications (dose and frequency) and any diagnostic testing results.

  • What should I expect during a CVAC procedure?

    Historically, surgery was required to insert a CVAC tube. Today, it is a simple procedure performed by Interventional Radiologists on an outpatient basis. Before the procedure, you will receive medication to help you relax and the area where the tube is to be inserted will be numbed. Next, a needle will be inserted into your skin, creating a small opening. The catheter is then placed in the opening leading to a large vein that will receive any medications or nutrients that are infused through it or can be used to draw blood from the vein.

  • What will I feel during the CVAC procedure?

    You will feel a slight sting when the needles are inserted for the IV line and the anesthesia. If you receive sedation, you will feel relaxed and sleepy and may or may not be partially awake during the procedure. You may feel some pressure when the catheter is inserted, but no serious pain.

  • What should I expect after the CVAC?

    You may feel slight pressure in the area where the catheter was inserted. This may last up to a week, or it could dissipate shortly after the procedure. The level and duration of discomfort is different for every patient. If the pain is persistent, or if you notice fluid leaking from the tube, call your physician immediately.

  • How do I schedule a CVAC procedure with Fairfax Vascular Center?

    Before scheduling an appointment, you will need to get a referral from your physician. Once you have a referral, you can schedule an appointment by calling 703.698.4475 Monday through Friday 7am to 5pm.

  • When are appointments offered for CVAC procedures?

    Appointments are available at Fairfax Vascular Center Monday through Friday, 7am to 5pm. Learn more about this location.

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I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all who cared for me when I came in for my port placement procedure. My husband and I were treated professionally and courteously (from check-in to being taken out to my car at discharge), but also with a sense of humor, which made me feel comfortable and cared for (it is true, laughter is the best medicine!). It was so helpful that the entire procedure was explained  to us along with visual aids.  We now have a better understanding how the port will work for my chemo.

JoBeth E.