Central Venous Access Catheters (CVAC) and Gastrostomy (Feeding) Tubes

People with certain diseases or medical conditions sometimes require that tubes be placed into the body so that they can receive medications or nutrients directly into the blood stream or gastrointestinal system, or so blood can be drawn. Once, surgery was required to insert these tubes, but today these procedures can be done without surgery by an interventional radiologist.

Central Venous Access Catheters (CVAC)

A CVAC is a tube that is inserted beneath your skin so there is a simple, pain-free way for doctors or nurses to draw your blood or give you medication or nutrients. When you have a CVAC, you are spared the irritation and discomfort of repeated needlesticks. More than 3.4 million CVACs are placed each year, and doctors increasingly recommend their use. There are several types of CVACs, including tunneled catheters (Hickman or Broviac), peripherally inserted central catheters (also called PICC lines or long lines), dialysis catheters, and implantable ports.

venous access catheter images

Doctors often recommend CVACs for patients who regularly have:

  • Chemotherapy treatments
  • Infusions of antibiotics or other medications
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Hemodialysis

Interventional radiologists also open up blocked hemodialysis grafts, using procedures such as angioplasty or thrombolytic therapy

Gastrostomy (Feeding) Tube

Doctors often recommend placing a gastrostomy tube in the stomach for a variety of conditions in which a patient is unable to take sufficient food by mouth. In the procedure, the feeding tube is inserted through a small nick in the skin and into the stomach under X-ray guidance.