How do I use a heparin flush for a central venous catheter for cancer care?

A heparin flushing procedure for your central venous catheter (a soft, flexible tube that is placed into one of the main vessels leading toward your heart and used to give blood, medication, or other fluids, or to draw samples of your blood) should be done three times weekly.

If your catheter has two ports, flush each one separately. If resistance is met when injecting the flushing solution, a blood clot may be blocking the tip. Contact your physician immediately. Prefilled syringe administration systems are available, and you may opt for this method. Instructions for their use are available on packaging or from the health professional referring you to that system.

Following are guidelines for heparin flushing:
  1. Gather equipment and supplies (25 gauge 3cc disposable syringe, vial of heparin flushing solution [multidose vial of 10 units per ml], and alcohol wipes)
  2. Wash hands.
  3. Clean the rubber center of the heparin solution vial with an alcohol wipe.
  4. Remove needle cover. Fill the syringe with air equal to the amount of flushing solution your doctor has ordered for you. The amount generally used is 5 cc.
  5. Without moving plunger, insert the needle through the center of rubber. Then push the plunger all the way in. This injects a measured amount of air into the bottle.
  6. Turn the bottle and syringe upside down. Keeping the point of the needle in the liquid, slowly pull back on the plunger to 5 cc (or amount prescribed by your doctor). Check for any air bubbles inside the syringe.
  7. If there are any air bubbles, tap gently with your fingers on the syringe so that they rise toward the needle. Then remove those bubbles by pushing the plunger up slightly.
  8. When the dose is correct (e.g., 5 cc) and there are no air bubbles in the syringe, remove needle from bottle. Take care not to change the position of the plunger in the syringe.
  9. Replace needle cap.
  10. Swab end of central venous catheter injection cap with alcohol wipe.
  11. Allow alcohol to dry. Do not touch the end of the cap.
  12. Remove needle cap from the syringe and carefully insert needle into middle of catheter injection cap.
  13. Unclamp the catheter and inject the heparin solution slowly.
  14. Reclamp the catheter as the last of the solution is injected.
  15. Withdraw needle.
  16. Discard syringe in a safe receptacle.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.