Day 13 – WHAT THE HECK IS A PORT ~ and do I want one?
What is a PORT? Also known as the “port-a-cath”, a PORT is a small device implanted under the skin to allow easy and direct access, quickly, to your bloodstream. A port can be used for blood draws, chemotherapy or IV infusions, or blood transfusions. Typically inserted during surgery that addresses your cancer, or same-day surgical procedure under local anesthetic.
- How is a port inserted, and will I feel it? During insertion, a small round plastic or metal disc is placed under your skin through an inch-or-two-long incision, typically in your upper chest area or occasionally your upper arm. The port is then attached to a catheter tube that is threaded into one of the large veins near your neck and ends near the top of your heart. This is done anesthetic and radiographic vision, such as x-ray or ultrasound, to make sure the end of your port is in the proper location. After a port is placed in the body, you will notice a slight protrusion of your skin, over the port.
- What are the potential benefits of having a port? During chemotherapy infusions, blood transfusions, or blood draws, a nurse will insert a needle into your port in an area called the “septum,” which is a re-sealing rubber center on your port. You will feel a needle poke/ pinch. Medications are then administered directly into the venous circulation via a syringe or tube (intravenous catheter). Advantages include greater comfort (versus multiple intravenous sticks for tests or therapy), no delays in finding a ‘good vein’ for blood draws or chemo infusion, lesk risk of medications leaking into other tissues surrounding the IV site, and enjoying greater ease in bathing and swimming without being concerned with infection, since the port is completely under your skin.
- What are the potential risks, challenges and disadvantages of having a port? All surgical procedures carry the risk of infection, thrombosis (blood clots), potential limitations in activity, and scarring leading to other-than anticipated results. With ports, another potential concern is a mechanical problem (movement of the catheter, separation of port from skin, etc) that might cause the port to stop working.
*Infection is the most common complication of having a port. Contact your doctor if you note any redness, pain or sweating, or develop a fever or drainage around your port.
- What is the difference between a Port and a PICC Line or IV? A PICC (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) is usually placed in your arm, closer to your skin, into a vein for a pharmaceutical treatment that will be needed for only one to six weeks. An IV (intravenous) device will be inserted even closer to the skin’s surface and is used as an another, more temporary (typically 3-5 days) delivery method to administer fluids such as medications, blood or nutrients.
- Will my port be removed? When you and your medical care team are confident that you no longer need your port, it will be removed in a surgical procedure, typically in under an hour and with the same visual radiographic aids and anesthetic. You will see a scar.
https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/chemotherapy/catheters-and-ports-cancer-treatment, https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/port, and https://www.whatnext.com/blog/posts/what-is-a-chemo-port-and-why-you-will-want-one