How does having a port affect my daily life?

Baird Cancer Treatment Port

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. That makes care easier — and your life easier.

Once you have a port, you may wonder how it will affect your day to day activities. We spoke with Richard Williams, RN, BSN, OCN at Baird Vascular Institute, who said to think of it as you would any medical procedure, “For the first few days, avoid any heavy lifting or strenuous activities.” Williams continued, “There are folks who like to hunt, or play tennis, or even have a job like a hairdresser where their arms move up and down frequently, for those folks we tell them they need to give the site a chance to heal, to let the skin start coming together and heal.”

Williams added, “We do ask people about their lifestyle and take that into consideration when placing the port. We can put the port on a different side if needed. All these things are discussed with the patient because we know they’re going to have this port for awhile.”

You can even travel with a port. Williams added, “If you do go through an airport scanner, it shouldn’t go off because there’s not metal in the port, but you can pull out a card that we’ll give you and show the agent what the ‘bump’ is in your scan.”

If you’d like to learn more about port and the procedure, we have a whole series of YouTube videos on the topic.

We’ll work with you and your health care team to choose the best long-term IV access option for your situation. Give us a call at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options.

 

Why a port is a good idea

VCU Health Baird Port

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
  • Hemodialysis
  • 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.

 

 

Spring is around the corner and I don’t want to live with these spider veins anymore – what can you do for me?

136578824_web

Don’t be embarrassed. You don’t have to live with spider veins anymore.

If you’re always covering up your spider veins, those unsightly dark blue or red blotches or jagged networks of tiny veins on your legs with longer skirts, pants and bathing suit wraps and towels – it doesn’t have to be that way. Today we offer gentle, virtually pain free treatments that eliminate or greatly diminish the appearance of spider veins.

Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but are milder, involving the smaller veins just below the skin surface. Spider veins are more common among women of any age, and frequently appear during/after pregnancy or when gaining weight. The extra burden weakens the valves in the veins carrying blood back to the heart, so the blood pools and the veins swell. When only small, surface veins are affected, the result is spider veins, which can range from little patches to very large areas. They generally do not bulge or cause pain. But they can do damage to your self-esteem.

The good news is that today, spider veins are treatable – and easier to treat than other varicose veins. With new treatments using injections or safe laser technology, we offer cosmetic options that diminish or eliminate spider veins – and the embarrassment.

How are spider veins treated?

Until recently, spider veins went untreated. The veins are very small, there can be hundreds or thousands of them, and they do not present a significant health risk that requires surgery. However, today we can offer two gentle, technically advanced and effective treatments for spider veins that shrink or let the body absorb the damaged veins, leaving behind clear, unblemished skin: sclerotherapy or surface laser therapy.

Sclerotherapy involves using a tiny needle to inject individual spider veins with a solution that makes them shrink. As they shrink, blood is channeled to deeper veins, making the spider veins on the surface almost invisible. The vast majority of patients who have sclerotherapy experience significant improvement in the appearance of their veins.

Surface laser therapy uses an extremely accurate laser to deliver painless pulses of light energy to the spider veins on the surface of the skin. The energy causes the blood inside the veins to coagulate, which eventually destroys the spider veins, which are gradually absorbed by the body, which redirects blood flow to veins deeper below the skin’s surface, leaving behind clear, unblemished skin.

How long does treatment take?

The number of treatments needed to clear or improve your spider veins depends on their amount and severity. The average treatment is three to five sessions. Smaller veins may disappear after the first session. However, severe cases may require as many or ten or more sessions: in some cases, a vein may need to be injected one to five times or more, over a period of weeks or months. Multiple areas can be treated during each session, reducing the total number of treatments needed. In general, you’ll see an overall improvement within weeks or months.

Spider vein treatments do not prevent development of new spider veins over the years. Pregnancy, high estrogen levels or jobs that require a lot of standing may increase the likelihood that spider veins will reappear. Many people will require additional treatments from time to time to keep their legs clear.

Will insurance cover my treatment?

Most insurance companies consider spider vein treatment a cosmetic procedure, not medical, and in most cases it is not covered by insurance. You should check your individual plan to verify what varicose vein treatment options are included in your plan. Call us at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options. You may decide that your beautiful legs are worth it.

5 Symptoms of Vascular Disease

Baird vascular leg pain

Vascular medicine and surgery primarily focuses on diseases and disorders of the peripheral vascular system: feet, hands, legs and arms. The health of the peripheral vascular system has a major impact on the health of your overall circulatory system and your overall health, and a vascular screening can reveal the first signs of more serious problems, which is why we offer comprehensive screenings to all our patients.

When your heart beats, it pumps blood back and forth through a complex system of vessels, called the circulatory, or vascular system. These arteries and veins, ranging from very large to microscopic, are elastic tubes that carry the blood to and from every part of the body. The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood from the lungs through arteries, and veins carry the blood back to the heart into the lungs, which remove CO2 and other waste from the blood and replenish it with fresh oxygen. This cycle supplies all the muscles, organs and tissues of the body with the oxygen and nutrients they need to work.

Vascular disease can cause these vessels to narrow, harden, swell, form blood clots or get partially or entirely blocked. When this happens, the tissues fed by these vessels are robbed of the oxygen and nutrients. Sometimes pain in the affected area will signal a problem. At other times, vascular disease shows few symptoms as it worsens over time, sometimes with serious consequences.

Although usually associated with older people, vascular disease can affect almost anyone and may present itself in all areas of the body.

Vascular diseases range from diseases of the arteries, veins and lymph vessels to blood disorders that affect circulation. Among the most common types of vascular disease are peripheral vascular disease (PVD), peripheral artery disease (PAD) and coronary artery disease. The terms peripheral vascular disease and peripheral artery disease are often used interchangeably. Many of the problems we diagnose and treat involve peripheral vascular disease in one degree or another.

Some symptoms to be on the lookout for include:

  1. Cramping and pain in the legs and buttocks, indicating poor circulation in the legs.
  2. Fatigue, heaviness and discomfort during exercise or activity that generally goes away when the activity stops or you are resting. This is called “intermittent claudication.”
  3. Leg pain that does not go away when you stop exercising
  4. Foot or toe wounds that don’t heal or heal very slowly
  5. A decrease in the temperature of your lower leg or foot, particularly compared to the other leg or the rest of your body.

If you want to learn more about peripheral vascular disease (PVD) and treatment options, wish to discuss symptoms or problems you may be experiencing or if your doctor has recommended that you see us for a vascular test, please contact us at (804) 828-2600 or email us.

I’m interested in getting rid of the spider veins on my legs before summer. What can you do to help me? How long does treatment take?

shutterstock_232182517

About half of all Americans over the age of 50 suffer from varicose veins that make walking and standing difficult. Although more common as you age, varicose veins and spider veins are seen in 20% of American adults.

Spider veins and varicose veins are more common in women, especially after weight gain, including pregnancy. Veins are responsible for carrying blood to the heart and lungs. Veins have a type of “valve” that function only one way. This prevents the flow of blood back into the veins. If this one-way valve is weakened, the blood flows back into the veins causing the veins to get congested. They become enlarged which results in the formation of varicose veins or spider veins.

Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but they are smaller. They are often red or blue and are closer to the surface of the skin than varicose veins. They can look like tree branches or spider webs with their short jagged lines and can cover a very small area or very large areas. Spider veins are usually easier to treat than varicose veins using sclerotherapy or laser vein treatment.

Sclerotherapy is a procedure where an injection is used to treat spider veins. The sclerotherapy procedure uses an extremely tiny needle to inject the vein with a solution that shrinks the vein. As the vein shrinks, blood is channeled to deeper veins, lessening the appearance of the spider vein on the skin of the surface. The vast majority of patients who have sclerotherapy will experience significant improvement in the appearance of their veins.

Surface laser therapy is another treatment option for spider veins that delivers pulses of light energy. This surface laser therapy causes the blood within the vein to coagulate, eventually destroying the spider vein, which is later reabsorbed by the body. Blood flow is then redirected to veins deeper below the skin’s surface.

Predicting the number of sclerotherapy or surface laser treatments needed to clear or improve your spider veins is difficult. Each vein may need to be injected one to five times, or more, over a period of weeks or months.

The total number of spider vein treatment sessions needed depends on the amount and severity of the veins. Average treatment is three to five sessions, however, severe cases may require as many as 10 or more.

“Sclerotherapy and laser therapy do not prevent development of new spider veins over the years,” said Dr. Brian Strife. “Standing occupations, pregnancy and high estrogen states may increase the likelihood that spider veins will appear. Many people will require additional treatments from time to time to keep their legs clear.”

Improvement is usually seen over a period of weeks or months. Smaller veins can disappear after the first treatment session. Multiple areas can be treated during each session, reducing the total number of sessions required.

 

Why you shouldn’t ignore vascular issues

shutterstock_141466966

People often ignore or brush off certain symptoms as “minor” when it comes to their health. Many times, vascular issues are indicative of a larger problem, or more serious illness. Here are some issues that you should definitely speak to your physician about.

Leg pain: Pains that start in your legs with walking or other exertion could be a sign of peripheral artery disease (PAD), which often goes hand-in-hand with coronary artery disease.

Varicose veins: Varicose veins are not just an unsightly cosmetic annoyance, but also an indication that the veins in your legs are not working the way they should. Untreated varicose veins can lead to more serious issues including blood clots, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

There are more than 60,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body, providing the network for the flow of oxygen and nutrients required by the body for good health. VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute has the latest in technology and techniques to diagnose and treat vascular disease. If we uncover signs of vascular disease, our experts can develop a custom treatment plan for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: Cleveland Clinic, VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute

I’m nervous about my port procedure. What should I do to prepare?

The physician’s recommendation for you to have a port is made when there is a frequent need to administer medication via a central vein, or when there is difficulty for doctors or nurses to access your veins for blood draws or lab checks.

It’s common to have a case of nervousness before an unknown event, and medical procedures are no different. At our office, one of our interventional radiologists takes care of the procedure from start to finish, after working with your physician to decide on type of port is best for your particular case. We are there to answer questions or concerns before or after the procedure.

Often, mentally preparing for a procedure is as simple as knowing what to expect.

Typically, when a port is put in, a patient is put under conscious sedation, which is a combination of pain medication and a tranquilizer. This combination is designed to relax you and reduce pain, but not put you complete under. It is not the same as general anesthesia. We want you to be comfortable, yet able to breath on your own and speak to the physician if needed.

The physician will make a small incision above your collarbone, and another under your collarbone. A tunnel is formed under the skin between the two openings. The catheter is passed through this tunnel and then gently threaded into the vein. The physician then makes a pocket under the skin, places the port in the pocket, and then sutures the pocket closed.

Afterwards, you may be a little sore, but the pain should be minimal. Your physician will give you detailed care instructions including any movement restrictions, medication instructions and information on how to clean the area.

 

Sources:  VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute,  Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center