Port/Port-A-Cath® Q & A
When you face the battle of cancer and need frequent chemotherapy, medication injections, or blood draws, insertion of a port/Port-A-Cath® can make your journey easier and more comfortable. The physicians at Vascular Health Institute can implant a port so that you can receive your treatment through the port rather than enduring multiple needle sticks and IVs. Your Oncologist can refer you to Vascular Health Institute for this procedure.
What is a port-a-cath?
A port-a-cath is a device that contains a port — a small, round reservoir covered with a plastic membrane — and a catheter. The reservoir is implanted just below your skin, while the catheter runs under your skin into a large vein. A needle can easily puncture the plastic membrane to deliver medication or withdraw blood. The membrane is self-sealing, which means it can be pierced many times and your port-a-cath can stay in place for several years.
Who needs a port-a-cath?
Port-a-caths are primarily used for patients needing frequent administration of chemotherapy, blood transfusions, or antibiotics. It’s also used to draw blood samples, to avoid constant needle sticks. In addition to reducing needle sticks to administer medication or withdraw blood, a port-a-cath has two other advantages: It has a lower risk of infection than IVs, and it can be used to give you drugs that can’t go through an IV. Some toxic drugs, including chemotherapy drugs, can damage small veins. The port-a-cath solves that problem, so your treatment is safer and more comfortable.
How is a port-a-cath inserted?
When you have the port-a-cath inserted, you’ll be awake, and given medication to relax/sedate you and you will have local anesthesia. The doctor will insert the port in the front of your chest then run the catheter from your chest into a vein in your neck, then down toward your heart.
The procedure takes less than an hour; then you’ll stay in recovery for a few hours until the sedation wears off. You’ll be sleepy for about 24 hours, and you’ll need to take it easy for about three days. You’ll receive specific care procedures before you go home, but you should be able to return to your normal activities in a week or two.
You won’t be able to see the port or the catheter. You may, however, have a small bulge where the port is located in your chest.
What maintenance does the port-a-cath need?
You don’t need to do anything to maintain your port-a-cath. If you don’t use it regularly, it should be flushed, but that’s done by the team at Vascular Health Institute or your oncology nurse. When you don’t need the device, it’s removed via a similar procedure to the insertion.
To learn more about the port-a-cath and how it can make your treatment regimen easier, talk to your Oncologist, and ask them to refer you to Vascular Health Institute.