NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms

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The NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms features 7,812 terms related to cancer and medicine.

Browse the dictionary by selecting a letter of the alphabet or by entering a cancer-related word or phrase in the search box.

central venous access catheter
(SEN-trul VEE-nus AK-ses KA-theh-ter)
A thin, flexible tube that is inserted into a vein in the upper arm, thigh, or neck or below the collarbone. It is guided (threaded) into a large vein near the heart called the vena cava or into the right atrium of the heart. It is used to give intravenous fluids, blood transfusions, and chemotherapy and other drugs, and for taking blood samples. It avoids the need for repeated needle sticks.

EnlargeCentral venous catheter; drawing of a central venous catheter that goes from a vein below the right collarbone to a large vein above the right side of the heart called the superior vena cava. An inset shows a central venous catheter in the right side of the chest with a clear plastic dressing over it.

Central venous catheter. A central venous catheter is a thin, flexible tube that is inserted into a vein, usually below the right collarbone, and guided (threaded) into a large vein above the right side of the heart called the superior vena cava. It is used to give intravenous fluids, blood transfusions, chemotherapy, and other drugs. The catheter is also used for taking blood samples. It may stay in place for weeks or months and helps avoid the need for repeated needle sticks.