A right pain in the neck!

Another very interesting day in my journey into the (relatively) unknown.

Tonight, I am the proud owner of a triple lumen skin tunnelled central venous catheter with cuff, AKA a Hickman Line.

And I’m also quite proud of my pun, based on the Baddiel and Skinner (& Lightning Seeds) Euro 96 ‘classic: ‘Three Lines in My Chest’. Geddit?

The Hickman Line insertion procedure was fascinating, and although a wee bit painful at times, and often quite uncomfortable, I’m glad I was awake throughout just to experience life in the ‘intervention’ room.

I was amazed to find the X-Ray Department (where the procedure was carried out) had been very recently refurbished and kitted out with cutting edge equipment. For those familiar with the Western General, anything that’s had a recent lick of paint is considered a luxury!

After the usual round of very thorough paperwork and an introduction to the nurse in charge and the doctor, I was soon lying down on the bed being asked for my choice of music. Though tempted by the Best of Steps (seriously!), I plumped for a bit of REM.

Then it was introduction time to the other five nurses who’d be present throughout, and a ‘surgical pause’ to allow all involved to be talked through what was happening and to make sure all equipment and drugs were in place.

I thought I’d be nervous, but I have to say that the professionalism and friendliness of all the staff in the room had me totally at ease, a big bonus.

Next up was building what can only be described as a wee tent around my head, so that my exposed upper torso remained sterile and more importantly so that I couldn’t see the knives, needles and tubes!

It was oddly soothing in my wee cocoon, with only a small sight-line to the lead nurse available as the jabbing, cutting and poking went on.

Though I couldn’t see it, I did get a running commentary from the doctor, and I think things went something like this:

  • Small ultrasound machine on my neck to identify the site of the ‘big vein’ they’d be putting the wire into.
  • Thorough cleaning with antiseptics then local anaesthetic injections (not sure how many) to numb the area in and around my right collar bone.
  • A small cut is made in the skin near the collarbone. The tip of the line gets threaded into the large vein, and pushed towards the heart.
  • Due to the size of the tube and the need for it to have three IV lines, the skin gets stretched in five phases to make it fit (quite painful I have to admit).
  • The other end of the line is then tunnelled (quite forcefully!) under the skin. The tube then reaches the exit site in my chest where another cut has been made. This is where it comes out of my body.
  • Chest x-rays are carried out throughout to make sure the line is in the right place (it is!).
  • Then the holes are stitched up with dissolvable stitches, and dressing put over the entry and exit points.
  • Voila, I have my Hickman Line in place.


I talk about pain here. It wasn’t sharp, ‘ouch!’ pain, more a dull, muscular pain, the kind you sometimes get with a deep tissue massage.

And the whole thing doesn’t take too long. I think I was lying down about half and hour, with the ‘surgical’ bit around 20 minutes.

Two hours and six blood pressure checks later and I’m free to go into the spring sunshine – managing to avoid the lunch trolley (the blessings of being first on that day’s list!).

How do I feel now (mid-evening)? Like I’ve got a really stiff neck, or have pulled a muscle near my collar bone. Uncomfortable, but not too painful.

Mentally, I feel quite relieved.

I’m fine getting toxic poisons pumped into my veins every few weeks, even in the knowledge they might make me quite ill. But I’m not a fan of knives and multiple needles. Surgery (even minor) is not my bag.

Hopefully, despite the discomfort, I might get a decent night’s sleep.

A x






About Andrew Slorance

Husband, father, son, brother, cyclist, pen pusher, pedant, contrarian , fights Mantle Cell Lymphoma in my spare time.
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8 Responses to A right pain in the neck!

  1. Stephen Marvin says:

    Hi Andrew,
    Having had mine put in last Wednesday, I would suggest at last a couple of paracetamol, if not something stronger. It was pretty painful that evening.




    • Hi Stephen. Thanks for the advice. I normally try to avoid painkillers but took your advice last night. Was still a big painful, or tender, when I moved but didn’t actually wake me up much. A


  2. Ann Deans says:

    Hope you had a good night. I was always terrified I would move in the night and yank my Hickman line out. Never did, but what a relief when it finally was out…….many months later.


    • hi Ann. Funny, that was my big fear last night. That I’d howk the think out and bleed out all over the bed. Didn’t happen but I was sore (tender) every time I rolled over. Need to get used to it as I’ll have mine for a few months now. X


  3. Michael kellet says:

    Thanks Andrew. Loving the detail. Sounds like the team followed the surgical checklist to the letter (I’m surmising only a clincian would really know) which is a big part of the Scottish patient safety programme in acute settings. Along with other ‘bundles of care’ it’s had great results. Keep your chin up and keep writing. All the best michael


  4. Jason Leitch says:

    Hi Andrew, Michael passed on your post to let me see it. It’s very encouraging. It is indeed the surgical checklist in action and involving the patient too. It’s what the Safety Programme has been working towards for years.
    I’ll follow your blog now and feel free to get in touch anytime things aren’t perfect or if you need help.
    I wonder if you’d take the time to feedback on http://www.patientopinion.org occasionally. It’s our main way of obtaining feedback for teams. It’s very powerful.
    Cheers. Jason


  5. They were brilliantly thorough. Unlike the District Nurse and here wrong sized needle in the belly incident. Ouch!


  6. Scott Murray says:

    Hi Andrew

    My wife went through a similar process a number of years ago when she needed a Hickman for one of her many ailments. She also found it not too bad and a lot, lot less uncomfortable than getting a lumbar puncture!! Always good to hear how you are doing . Best wishes. Scott


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