Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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An Observational Study of Peripherally Inserted Central Cather(PICC)-Related Complications Amongst Oncology Patients

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posted on 2021-11-08, 04:34 authored by Fairhall, Mary

This thesis reports on a retrospective observational study that examined the complication rate of peripherally inserted central catheters (PICCs) within a regional cancer centre. PICCs are increasingly used for delivery of chemotherapy and other intravenous therapies in oncology patients. A literature review revealed that almost all published research on PICC complications reported on silicone (Groshong(TM)) catheter use, rather than the polyurethane (Arrow(TM)) PICCs used at Christchurch Hospital. Also, much literature referred to PICCs being inserted by non-nurses, whereas the Christchurch service uses specially-trained nurses to insert them. The purpose of the study was to identify the nature, incidence and rates of polyurethane (Arrow(TM)) PICC complications in an adult oncology cohort. Ethics Committee approval was gained to retrospectively follow all PICCs inserted in adult oncology patients at Christchurch Hospital over a 13-month period from 1st March 2006 until 31st March 2007. Data collected were analysed utilising the statistical computer package SPSS. One hundred and sixty-four PICCs were inserted into 156 individual oncology patients over this period. The median dwell time was 68 days (range 6-412, IQR 39-126) for a total of 14,276 catheter-days. Complications occurred in 25 (15%) out of 164 PICC lines, in 22 (15%) of the 156 patients for an overall complication rate of 1.75 per 1000 catheter-days. However, only 16 of the 25 PICCs with complications required early removal (9.75% of the cohort) for a favourably low serious complication rate of 1.12 per 1000 catheter-days. The three commonest complications were infection at 4.3% (7/164) or 0.49 infection complications/1000 PICC-days, PICC migration at 3% (5/164) or 0.35/1000 catheter days, and thrombosis at 2.4% (4/164) or 0.28/1000 catheter days. The median time to complication was 41 days (range 2-160, IQR 25-77). Those with complications were more likely to have a gastro-intestinal or an ovarian cancer diagnosis, and less likely to have colorectal cancer (p=0.001). These findings provide support for the safe and effective use of polyurethane (Arrow(TM)) PICCs for venous access within the adult oncology context. Furthermore, it suggests that cost effective nurse-led (Arrow(TM)) PICC insertions can contribute to a low complication rate. This benchmark study should be followed by further prospective studies examining the relationship of cancer diagnosis to PICC complication rates in oncology patients.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Nursing

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Graduate School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health


Nelson, Kathy