Purpose: To determine maximum flow rates through peripherally inserted central catheters (PICCs) using a standard hospital infusion pump.
Background: Two questions asked with the use of PICCs and flow rates are (1) can a PICC be used to give nonemergent fluid boluses, and (2) can standard hospital infusion pumps develop enough pressure to rupture a catheter?
Methods: New PICCs of different brands and gauges were gathered. Six standard hospital infusion pumps and tubing of the same brand and model were used. The pressure sensor was set at 600 mm Hg. The pumps were connected through the access ports of each intravenous tube in a series fashion. The PICC end was submerged under 5 cm of water. All equipment and fluids were at 70° F. PICCs were trimmed to 45 cm. Fluids were run starting with the first pump at 999 mL/hour and then additional pumps were added until the pump's 600 mm Hg limit stopped the infusion or catheter rupture. Tests with the same PICC were repeated and recorded.
Results: Flow rates varied with the type, size, gauge, and brand of PICC catheter. Flows were achieved from 2,100 mL/hour to >6,000 mL/hour. None of the PICCs ruptured.
Conclusions: Maximum flow rates through PICCs were limited by the maximum pressure allowed by the standard hospital infusion pump. A standard hospital infusion pump cannot generate enough pressure to rupture a new-out-of-the-package catheter.
Implication for Practice: Nonemergent fluid boluses can be given through PICCs and standard infusion pumps will not rupture a PICC.