Information for patients
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This leaflet tells you what a Hickman Line is and why it is used.
What is a Hickman Line?
The Hickman Line is a catheter (hollow tube) made from a soft rubber-like material called silicone. It can stay in your body for many months.
The catheter will have either 1 or 2 openings called lumens.
Your Doctor will decide whether you need a single or double lumen line, depending on the treatment you are having.
Why do I need a Hickman Line?
The Hickman Line makes it easier to administer (give) medication, blood products and other fluids intravenously (directly into your blood stream).
It reduces the need for repeated injections for patients, such as yourself, who need treatment over a long period of time.
Where in my body does a Hickman Line go?
The line is inserted into a large vein that leads to the right atrium (one of the top chambers) of your heart. This is where the tip of the line will sit.
A small incision (cut) will be made near to your collarbone (this is called the ‘insertion site’). The line will be put into your vein. The line is then ‘tunnelled’ under your skin to another small incision called the ‘exit site’. The exit site is normally mid-way down your chest wall.
There is a cuff on the line, which is used to anchor (fix) the line in place under your skin, between the insertion and exit sites. This also helps act as a barrier against anything that could cause infection entering your body at this point.
What will happen on the day the Hickman Line is inserted?
You will usually be admitted as a day case patient (unless you are an inpatient already). You will be asked to remove your upper clothing and lie on a bed in a treatment room.
Your Doctor or Nurse will monitor (check) you throughout your procedure.
Your chest and neck will be cleaned and sterile drapes will be placed over you. Sometimes, men may need to have their chest hair shaved before it is cleaned.
A local anaesthetic will be injected under your skin to numb the area where the line will go. This will sting at first.
It usually takes between 20 – 30 minutes to insert a Hickman Line. The line is inserted using ultrasound and X-ray to make sure it is in the correct place. The final position will be checked with X-ray.
You may have some oozing from the insertion and exit sites and there may be some bruising and stiffness around your shoulder and neck where the line has been inserted.
You will have a suture (stitch) fixing the line at both the insertion and exit sites. The insertion site sutures will need to be removed 7 days after the line has been fitted and the sutures at the exit site will be monitored and removed after 21 days, if appropriate. Arrangements will be made with your Nurse to decide on management of sutures.
The line needs simple, but strict, care to make sure that it remains open, not blocked and to stop it from becoming infected. This is usually done once a week by your Nurse, even if you are not receiving treatment. If you feel you would be able to do this yourself, please discuss this with your Nurse.
Is it painful to have the line inserted?
A local anaesthetic is used to numb the area, but you will still feel a pushing sensation when the line is being tunnelled under your skin. This can be uncomfortable. You should tell the Nurse if this is painful and more local anaesthetic can be given.
Within 7 days of your line being inserted, you will be checked by the team who requested your line to be inserted (this is usually the Chemotherapy Unit)
It would be helpful if you could make a note of your Insertion date.
How will I know if my Hickman Line is infected?
You must contact your Nurse or ward for immediate advice if you develop any of the following symptoms:
- Excess discharge (oozing) from the exit site.
- Redness, swelling or pain around the exit site.
- High temperature or fever.
- Shivering attack or a feeling of being hot, then cold.
If you have any worries or concerns about your line, you must contact your Nurse or ward for advice immediately.
Emergency out-of-hours advice can be given from the Chemotherapy/Haematology helpline if you are unwell (contact details are at the end of this leaflet).
What should I do if I feel cold and shivery one minute and hot the next?
This is not always due to the Hickman Line. You must contact your Nurse or ward for advice.
What should I do if the clamp on the line seems to have snapped open?
The clamp is a secondary safety device, simply close it if it snaps open. It is sensible to check each day that the clamp is closed.
What should I do if the line has snapped?
If there is enough line, tie the line in a tight knot and seek medical help immediately. This is very rare.
Will having a Hickman Line affect my sex life?
There is no reason why having a Hickman Line should interfere with your sex life. Before starting any activity, make sure that your line is taped securely to your skin.
Will I be able to go swimming?
We generally do not advise you to go swimming when you have a Hickman line in place. You can discuss this further with your Nurse if required.
Will I be able to bathe or shower?
Yes, you can bathe or shower, but try not to soak the area around your line. Your Nurse will explain how you can do this.
Will I be able to drive?
Yes, but you may need to take extra care if your seatbelt is worn over your Hickman Line.
If you need further advice or have any problems, please telephone:
University Hospital of North Tees
Monday – Friday, 9.00am – 5.00pm
(Outside of these hours please contact: 01642 383578)
Haematology Day Unit
Monday – Friday, 8.00am – 7.00pm
Telephone: 01642 383578
Outside of these hours, your call will be diverted to the Out of Hours Service.
University Hospital of Hartlepool
Monday – Friday, 9.00am – 5.00pm
Telephone: 01429 522760
Outside these hours please contact: 01642 383578.
Further information available
Calls to this number are free from landlines and mobile phones.
When it is less urgent than 999 call 111
Comments, concerns, compliments or complaints
Patient Experience Team (PET)
We are continually trying to improve the services we provide. We want to know what we’re doing well or if there’s anything which we can improve, that’s why the Patient Experience Team (PET) is here to help. Our Patient Experience Team is here to try to resolve your concerns as quickly as possible. The office is based on the ground floor at the University Hospital of North Tees if you wish to discuss concerns in person. If you would like to contact or request a copy of our PET leaflet, please contact:
Telephone: 01642 624719
Freephone: 0800 092 0084
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9:30am to 4:00pm
Email: [email protected]
Out of hours
Out of hours if you wish to speak to a senior member of Trust staff, please contact the hospital switchboard who will bleep the appropriate person.
Telephone: 01642 617617
Data protection and use of patient information
The Trust has developed Data Protection policies in accordance with Data Protection Legislation (UK General Data Protection Regulations and Data Protection Act 2018) and the Freedom of Information Act 2000. All of our staff respect these policies and confidentiality is adhered to at all times. If you require further information on how we process your information please see our Privacy Notices.
Telephone: 01642 383551
Email: [email protected]Privacy Notices
This leaflet has been produced in partnership with patients and carers. All patient leaflets are regularly reviewed, and any suggestions you have as to how it may be improved are extremely valuable. Please write to the Clinical Governance team, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospital of North Tees, TS19 8PE or:
Email: [email protected]
Leaflet Reference: PIL1102
Date for review: 13/04/2025