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A Groshong® catheter is a small hollow tube that is inserted into a large vein just below the collarbone. This type of catheter may used for long-term intravenous therapy and infusions. This intravenous catheter can also be used for blood draws.
The Groshong® catheter is usually inserted in the operating room. The blunt end is inserted into a large vein that is located just below the collarbone. The catheter is then threaded down several inches until the tip of it rests just above the heart in a vein called the superior vena cava. The opposite end of the catheter is tunneled approximately three to four centimeters (1.18 to 1.57 inches) below the surface of the skin. A small incision is made to allow the catheter to exit out the front of the chest.
After the catheter is placed, the doctor may put a few stitches at the exit site to help hold it in place. These stitches can be removed in two to three weeks. The catheter has a unique cuff on the part of the tube that is tunneled under the skin. This cuff contains a special mix of collagen that promotes tissue ingrowth. This means human tissue will actually grow to the cuff to help hold the catheter in place.
An individual may need a Groshong® catheter for various reasons. The purpose of these intravenous catheters is to provide venous access in individuals who no longer have good venous access on the arms. Groshong® catheters can stay in place for months and sometimes even years. Individuals who must get chemotherapy, frequent blood transfusions, or frequent blood draws may benefit from this type of catheter.
There are risks associated with a Groshong® catheter. Infection at the exit site and bleeding can occur in some cases. Occasionally, an individual may experience an irregular heartbeat because the tip of the catheter is very close to the heart. If this happens, the doctor can re-adjust the tip of the catheter.
Another risk associated with this intravenous catheter is an air embolism. This happens when a large amount of air gets injected into the catheter. Air injected into a vein can cause an individual to develop chest pain and shortness of breath. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.
Once the Groshong® catheter is no longer needed, it can be removed easily by qualified health care personnel. The catheter is removed by pulling gently on the protruding tube. The catheter should break away from the tissue that has held it in place. If the catheter does not break away from the tissue, surgical removal may be necessary.