A skin-tunnelled catheter is a flexible plastic tube passed through the skin of the chest and inserted into the subclavian vein, which leads to the heart. It is often used in people who have leukaemia or other cancers and need to have regular chemotherapy and blood tests. Using the catheter, drugs can be injected directly into the bloodstream and blood samples can be obtained easily.
The catheter is inserted under local anaesthesia and can remain in position for months. The external end is plugged when not in use. Because the catheter is inserted through the skin some distance away from the site of entry into the vein, the risk of infection is reduced.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.