Tubes, Lines & Catheters

Interventionalists use image guidance to place tubes, lines, and catheters for a variety of reasons. These microtools can assist with blood draws, intravenous nutrition and medication, draining excess fluid, air, or infection, and more.



Tubes, lines, and catheters are used for a varitey of reasons and provide critical, and sometimes, life-saving solutions for patients. These medical devices are inserted through a small incision, and then the interventional radiologist uses imaging to guide the device to its exact location. 


Also called a central venous catheter, a central line is a small tube that interventional radiologists place in a vein for long-term drug administration, nutrition, blood draws, or antibiotic medicines for serious infection. Typically placed in the central vein under the shoulder bone, central lines are more convenient and often less painful than IV needles. The most common central line is called a PICC, or a peripherally inserted central catheter, which usually is inserted through the arm and passed through other veins closer to the heart. The tube for a central line is larger than a typical IV, allowing for a faster flow of fluids, like chemotherapy or nutrition. For this reason it’s also a great tool for drawing blood. Placement of a central line is an outpatient procedure and only takes about an hour.



Feeding tubes are used for long-term feeding, allowing liquid nutrition and other fluids to pass directly to the stomach or small intestine. Typically placed when the patient has difficulty passing food to the stomach, swallowing, or ingesting nutrition/fluids by mouth, feeding tubes can stay in place for varying amounts of time, depending on the patient’s needs. Physicians use an endoscope (flexible camera on the end of a tube) for visualization, accessing the area of concern through the abdomen. Typically the procedure takes less than an hour. PEG Tubes, or percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tubes, are placed directly in the stomach. GJ Tubes, or gastro-jejunal tubes, are used to bypass the stomach to directly access the small intestines.

Biliary drains help rid the liver of bile when bile ducts become blocked or clogged between the liver and small intestine. These drains typically are used to help prevent infection, nausea, vomiting, fever, itching, or jaundice, or in patients who have been diagnosed with cholestasis. During an outpatient procedure, physicians use X-ray imaging and contrast dye to guide a catheter into a bile duct within the liver. Sometimes a biliary stent (metal mesh tube) or catheter (tube) is placed to connect the bile duct to the small intestine; then, the excess bile is routed to an external drainage collection bag. Types of biliary drains include PTC tubes, or percutaneous transhepatic catheters, which are external catheters placed in the liver to drain excess or blocked bile, and cholecystomy tubes, external catheters placed in the gallbladder to clear bile duct blockages or gallstones.

Our physicians use similar procedures to place other drains:

Nephrostomy tubes are catheters that are placed through the skin into the kidney to drain urine or clear urine blockage from the kidney to the bladder, routing the urine to an external collection bag. These tubes typically are used for patients experiencing kidney stones, pelvic tumors, urinary system damage or blockages, or prostate cancer.

Chest tubes are catheters that are placed to drain fluid or air from the pleural space, an area between the lungs and chest cavity. Chest tubes are often placed when patients undergo surgery, chest trauma, or a lung infection. A PleurX drainage catheter, or an indwelling pleural catheter, is different from a standard chest tube in that it has an additional valve located on the external part of the catheter, which allows fluid to leave the body without allowing air to enter. PleurX catheters are designed for chronic or recurrent chest drainage needs, often in patients with congestive heart failure, cancer, or pneumonia.



Abscess drainage catheters are used to drain an abscess, a confined pocket where infected fluid has collected. Most common in the abdomen or pelvic areas due to surgery or infection, physicians use image guidance to access the abscess and place a catheter to drain the fluid.

You have questions. We have answers.

Below you'll find answers to some of the questions we are commonly asked by patients. Please contact our ARA Cares Coordinator at (828) 436-5500 with any additional questions or concerns.