From needle sticks and blood draws, from injections to IVs, everybody has had their shots. Usually, a pinch is all there is to it. But many conditions, such as cancer treatment, long-term IV medication or kidney dialysis, require frequent or constant access to your veins. Repeated needle sticks in the same area can be hard on you and hard on your veins. That’s why we specialize in placing vein access ports, so that doctors don’t have to stick you with a needle or restart an IV line every time you need treatment.
We talked to VCU Baird Institute’s Dr. Shep Morano about why someone might need a port.
“A port is a safe, reliable and low maintenance way to access a patient’s bloodstream,” said Dr. Morano. “Sometimes a port is recommended for patients who have used up all their peripheral veins, or doctors or nurses are having difficulty accessing their veins.”
Placing a semi-permanent catheter such as a “port-a-cath,” chemotherapy port or IV access port into a large vein in the upper arm or neck can make treatment easier for patients undergoing treatments that require frequent or constant vein access.
- Chemotherapy or anti-cancer drug infusions
- Long-term intravenous antibiotic treatment
- Long-term intravenous feeding
- Repeated drawing of blood samples
These ports can remain in place for several weeks or months and can help patients in many ways:
- Fewer needle sticks to draw blood
- Multiple IV lines accessible at one site
- Lowered risk by reduced leakage, which is particularly important with chemotherapy agents that can cause tissue or muscle damage if they leak
Dr. Morano added, “The benefits of added safety, patient comfort, infection control, and ease of access make ports a great option for someone who needs long term central venous access.”
There are several types of long-term IV ports, the most well-known is the Port-a-cath. Unlike most other types of catheters, a port-a-cath is implanted completely underneath the skin. This type of port allows you to bathe and swim without the risk of infection. Port-a-caths can remain in place for months or even years.
A peripherally inserted central catheters or PICC line is inserted into one of the large veins in the arm near the elbow. PICC lines are generally used for shorter periods (one to six weeks) and are easier to remove.
These types of catheters, such as a Central line, tunneled venous catheters or Hickman catheters, are inserted into a large vein under the collarbone or in the neck and leave the body through a separate exit point, usually the upper chest. A “cuff” secures the line, providing protection from infection and holding the catheter in place as your body heals around it.
We work with you and your health care team to choose the best long-term IV access option for your situation.