the study aimed to analyze the history of the use of the peripherally inserted central catheters in adult patients admitted to hospital from 2000 to 2007. the historical cohort approach was used with retrospective data collection from medical records of the catheter group of the moinhos de vento hospital association in porto alegre, rs, totaling 229 catheters inserted. the growth curve in the use of the picc was from 1 catheter inserted in 2000 to 57 in 2007. the most prevalent pathology was oncology (17.9%, n=41). in relation to the indications of use, antibiotic use prevailed (54.1%, n=124). in the radiological confirmation the vena cava was prevalent (68.1%, n=156). the use of the picc in the hospital environment is expanding and nursing has a fundamental role in its insertion, maintenance and removal.