PICC Dressing Change Supplies Preparation

4 Key Items You Need When Preparing for a Dressing Change

Written by: Giulia Morgan



Time to read 5 min

Regular dressing changes are essential to maintaining a peripherally inserted central catheter, also known as a PICC. Knowing how to change the dressing of a PICC properly will help prevent infections, allow for longer periods of use, and increase patient comfort. 

As the daughter of a cancer survivor, I grew up watching my mother change the dressing on my father’s PICC line every single morning. An important note is that the timing of your PICC line dressing changes can vary from person to person. 

Your doctor will determine how frequently you will need to change your dressing, but a common time frame is every seven days or so. I recognize the importance of taking these preparative measures for sterilizing a PICC line and want to assist you in understanding the importance as well. 

In this blog, I will help you learn about changing a PICC line dressing by highlighting four key supplies you will need to change a PICC dressing properly.

Dressing Up Item #1: Surface Disinfectant

Before you start the process of changing a PICC line dressing, it is crucial that you use a surface disinfectant on the surfaces where the dressing change will take place.

Since a PICC line has direct access to the bloodstream, it is critical that we prevent bacteria from entering the PICC line as it can enter your body through the bloodstream.

Throughout the day we touch all kinds of bacteria and spread them to the surfaces around our homes. Although this bacteria is invisible, the germs on everyday surfaces that we touch such as door handles, bathrooms, hand driers, gas pumps, etc. allow it to spread rapidly.

These germs can be very harmful if they find access to our bodies. There is an even greater risk for those who are battling cancer or immunocompromised. As someone who is immunocompromised, surface disinfectant became one of my best friends during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I continue to use it frequently throughout my house to kill any harmful bacteria that may be lingering around my apartment.

Great places to use surface disinfectant around the house include door handles, kitchen countertops, dining chairs, television remotes, and any other high-traffic areas. Arguably the most important place to use disinfectant wipes is our phones as they travel with us and hold the germs that we wash off our hands with soap and water.

 If you are looking for a surface disinfectant, Sani Cloth Plus Germicidal Disposable Cloth comes in a package of 160 wipes that can be used on nearly all surfaces throughout the house. I recommend buying a package of wipes as they save time and money, and can be easily disposed of after each use.

Dressing Up Item #2: Adhesive Remover Wipes

Before putting on a new dressing, you will need to begin the PICC line dressing change process by removing the old dressing. The old dressing will likely have a stubborn adhesive that will not allow you to easily and comfortably remove the dressing. Using an adhesive remover wipe, such as ESENTA Sting Free Adhesive Remover Wipes , will give you the ability to easily remove the dressing as the solution on the wipe will dissolve the adhesive. 

Aside from removing the adhesive on a PICC dressing, adhesive remover wipes can be used to remove adhesive on many other medical devices, such as continuous glucose monitors for diabetics. As a Type One Diabetic who requires a CGM change every ten days, I have discovered that adhesive remover wipes make the adhesive removal process more comfortable. 

Since there is a large amount of adhesive on the PICC line dressing, you will likely find that you need to use multiple wipes to remove the dressing gently. By using the adhesive remover wipes, you will prevent skin irritation and discomfort with the new dressing.

Dressing Up Item #3: Alcohol Prep Pads

After using the adhesive removal wipes, the next step to changing your PICC line dressing is to use an alcohol prep pad. An alcohol prep pad typically consists of a pad of square fabric soaked in a solution of isopropyl alcohol. 

The alcohol prep pads are typically individually packaged in aluminum foil to ensure the solution stays damp and allows them to be easily portable. Without noticing, you have likely used an alcohol prep pad, as doctors typically use them on your arms before inserting a syringe for vaccines, before inserting a needle for blood drawing, or to disinfect many medical devices. 

In this case, the solution on the alcohol prep pad will be responsible for removing any remaining residue from the adhesive removal wipe and removing any bacteria that may be present around the PICC line. By using an alcohol prep pad, you will reduce the risk of infection around the PICC line and can prolong the length of time that a PICC line can last without needing to be replaced. 

Dressing Up Item #4: Skin Prep Protective Barrier

Following the use of the alcohol prep pads, you will need to use a skin prep pad as the next step in the PICC line dressing change. I have found that my friends and family oftentimes do not understand the difference between an alcohol prep pad and a skin prep wipe. Skin prep wipes are ideal for people with sensitive skin, anyone who requires any form of medical adhesive, and any form of would care. While the alcohol prep pad and skin prep pad are similar products and have the same goal of removing bacteria, there are a few key differences between the two products. 

For routine insulin injections, my alcohol prep pads are effective at removing any surface bacteria. However, the solution in skin prep pads contains other antiseptic agents other than alcohol, including chlorhexidine. The combination of alcohol and chlorhexidine ensures a deeper cleaning and better removal of bacteria for more invasive procedures. Additionally, skin prep pads are intended to create a thin layer of protection between the adhesive and your skin to avoid irritation. For this reason, it is recommended to use both an alcohol prep pad and a skin prep pad before placing a new dressing on a PICC line.

Since most of theme single-use products are so small and can easily be lost, a Self-Care Case can help you keep track of them. 

When changing a PICC line dressing, it is important to take the proper precautions to decrease the risk of infection and increase maximum comfort. Surface disinfectant, adhesive remover wipes, alcohol prep pads, and skin prep pads are four key items to have for a PICC line dressing change. 

The PICC line dressing change process should always begin with a surface disinfectant. Next, you will need to remove your old PICC dressing with adhesive remover wipes. Before placing the new dressing, both an alcohol prep pad and a skin prep pad should be used to disinfect the skin. By following these steps and using these four products, you will ensure a successful dressing change!

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