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Central Vascular Access Device (CVAD): Changing the Dressing


These are general tips. Your nurse may change and care for your CVAD at home. Or a nurse will teach you how to take care of it. Be sure to follow the specific instructions you are given. Call your doctor if you have questions or concerns.

In general, a clear dressing needs to be changed once a week, such as every Monday. A gauze dressing needs to be changed 2 or 3 times a week, such as every Monday and Thursday or every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Also, change your dressing right away if it becomes wet, loose, or dirty.

  1. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water.

    Rinse and dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towels.

  2. Prepare a clean work area, such as a clean counter in your kitchen or bathroom.
    • You may wish to spread several clean paper towels over your work area.
    • If you change your dressing in the kitchen, do not leave food on the counter.
  3. Gather the supplies you need for your dressing change.

    Your supplies may include:

    • An antiseptic, such as alcohol prep pads and swabs or Betadine swabs. Some health professionals recommend chlorhexidine. Your health professional will tell you which type of antiseptic is preferred.
    • Gauze and tape bandage or a clear dressing.
  4. Wash and dry your hands again.
  5. Open the packages that contain the antiseptic swabs.

    Lay them on the clean work surface.

  6. Remove the old dressing.
    • Do not tug on the CVAD.
    • Do not touch the exit site.
  7. Inspect the site by looking for redness, swelling, or drainage.

    Notice whether the area around the CVAD is tender or sore when you remove the bandage or move it.

  8. Rewash and redry your hands.
  9. Remove one alcohol swab from the package and clean around the exit site.

    Clean in a circular fashion, starting at the exit site and moving out.

  10. Remove an antiseptic swab from the package and clean around the exit site.
    • Clean in a circular fashion, starting at the insertion site and moving out.
    • Repeat with a second antiseptic swab.
    • Do not use a swab more than once.
    • Discard each swab after use.
  11. Clean the outside of the CVAD.
    • Use an alcohol prep pad to grip it at the exit site. Use another alcohol pad to gently clean the outside of it.
    • Start from the exit site and move toward the cap.
    • If it has 2 or 3 lines, use a fresh pad to clean each line.
  12. Apply gauze or a clear dressing.

    If you are using a gauze dressing, secure it with tape.

  13. Loop the CVAD under one corner of the dressing or place it over one corner of the dressing.
    • Secure it with tape.
    • You may need to experiment with different positions to find the one most comfortable for you.
    • To safeguard against it getting caught or pulled during your activities, make sure it does not hang or flop loosely.
  14. Dispose of the old dressing and any used materials as directed by your nurse.


Current as of: July 26, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

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