Port Care 101 – 5 things you need to remember

Many conditions, such as cancer treatment, long-term IV medication or kidney dialysis, require frequent or constant access to your veins. Repeated injections in the same area can be hard on you and hard on your veins. That’s why we specialize in placing vein access ports that make your care, and your life, easier.

There are a few things you should keep in mind if you’ve had a port procedure.

First, make sure to follow all the detailed instructions that were given to you for taking care of the catheter of port.

Secondly, take extra precautions avoid touching the tip of the catheter and always wash your hands before touching the area for bandage changes or cleaning. Also, it is ok to ask the nurse or any medical professional that is accessing your port to wash their hands in front of you and to always wear gloves.

Watch out for any sign of infections like redness or swelling or other issues such as leaks or blockages. Notify your physician immediately if you experience any of those issues.

Don’t be afraid to contact your physician if you have a question. We specialize in placing a wide variety of vein access devices and are here to address your concerns.

Finally – live your life. Having a port is supposed to make your life a little easier while undergoing treatment. With a few modifications, you can expect to resume relatively normal activities during this period of treatment.

Maintaining optimum health during dialysis

If you are starting hemodialysis treatments in the next several months, one crucial step before starting regular hemodialysis sessions is preparing a site on the body to access the vein. Dialysis access is the site on your body where blood is removed and returned during dialysis. To maximize the amount of blood cleansed during hemodialysis treatments, dialysis access should allow continuous high volumes of blood flow. There are three access options for the dialysis patient – AV fistula, AV graft or a central venous catheter.

To allow for the high volume of blood exchanged, dialysis access to your blood is usually in your arm or leg. Choosing your access is a decision that you and your doctor will make. We discuss the AV fistula, AV graft and central venous catheter options in this blog post.

As with any serious medical condition, you’ll need to make a few lifestyle changes while undergoing dialysis.

One of the most important changes for dialysis patients is diet. Maintaining a healthy diet during dialysis is essential to good health and shorter dialysis time. Toxins in unhealthy foods make the body produce more waste, resulting in longer dialysis treatments. The National Kidney Foundation has a great blog post from a dialysis patient who mastered her dialysis diet. You can read her post here.

Even though you may not always feel up to it, maintaining some form of exercise is still important. The combination of your kidney disease, and sitting for frequent, long periods of time during dialysis can expedite deterioration of your overall physical health. According to a program launched last summer in Australia, “Exercise has been shown to improve physical function, quality of life, muscle condition and the dialysis treatment in patients with kidney disease, as well as decreasing depression, cardiovascular risk and a range of other negative outcomes of kidney disease.”

Finally, mental health contributes to an overall sense of well-being. It’s normal to be concerned or overwhelmed with your diagnosis, but if you need to seek out professional help to sort through your feelings, do it. Try to stay as active and involved in your normal day to day activities as you can.

If you’d like more information about choosing your access site, please give us a call at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options.

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

What other services does VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute offer besides port procedures?

Baird Institute

You can take advantage of our world-class medical services in a convenient neighborhood setting. Our interventional radiologists and vascular surgeons offer a multidisciplinary approach to vascular disease so that each patient receives a comprehensive vascular screening and a treatment tailored to his or her particular need. The institute affords patients easy access to the full array of expert vascular screening and treatment services offered by the VCU Health.

We offer many minimally invasive services beyond our port procedures, including:

At the VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute, we have 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.

How is Baird Vascular Institute affiliated with VCU Health?

Every day, there’s a new discovery at VCU Health. Whether it’s a patient who undergoes a new, life-saving procedure or a clinical researcher who finds promise in a new cancer treatment, exciting medical advances are taking place. As the only academic medical center in the region, VCU Health is on the forefront of health care, providing patients with the most progressive treatments and medical technology available.

For the third time, VCU Health has been ranked a #1 hospital in Virginia and the Richmond metro area by U.S.News & World Report®. Thanks to the dedication, compassion and expertise of its more than 11,000 team members — from doctors, nurses and resident medical staff to support personnel and administrators — the medical center also enjoys consistently high patient satisfaction ratings.

The interventional radiologists and vascular surgeons of VCU Health teamed up to create a unique and exciting service for patients in Central Virginia. By combining the experience and expertise of these two areas, these skilled physicians offer the very best in vascular care for the Greater Richmond area at Baird Vascular Institute. Our state-of-the-art facility offers customized vascular care tailored to the individual needs of each patient — set in a warm and friendly environment located conveniently just off Interstate I-195.

VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute is unique in that it combines the very best expertise and knowledge of a prominent academic medical center with the convenience of an outpatient clinic. Designed to be patient friendly and easily accessible, the Baird Vascular Institute provides patients with a comfortable setting for the diagnosis and treatment of many vascular conditions.

Can a child have a port? What are the advantages?

Ports are one option for people who, for one reason or another, need frequent IV access for fluids, medications, blood draws or lab checks. Even young children can have a port.

There are many benefits for all patients, including safety, comfort and infection control, but for children, the ease of access is probably the biggest benefit. One of the more common reasons to have a port is for chemotherapy. If a child has cancer, the frequent need for medication, blood draws and other procedures involving needles may seem overwhelming and stressful for the child.

Because children are often very fearful of needles, and having a port minimizes instances of difficult IV access, or physicians or nurses having difficulty getting to veins. The port area can be numbed, reducing discomfort, and the number of “sticks” are reduced greatly by having a port.

In addition, having a port does not interfere with the daily activities of the child, and they can continue many physical activities without fear of affecting the site.

There are other options for vein access, but having a port in place is a great way to have a safe, reliable and low maintenance option.

Pediatric port procedures are typically done at locations that specialize in pediatric patients. Contact your child’s physician to see availability in your area.

How long should a port placement take, and what should I expect?


VCU Baird Vascular Institute is strictly an outpatient facility, meaning that with all procedures, you should be able to go home the same day. The procedures and recovery time can vary from 45 minutes to a few hours, depending on your unique case. Generally, a port placement takes between 1 to 2 hours.

You may be given medication to help you relax. For the procedure, two incisions are made, one in the chest and one near the collarbone. A needle will be inserted into the skin, creating a tunnel. The port is placed in the tunnel with the tip of the catheter in a large vein near the heart. Imaging equipment will help the physician find the best location for your port placement. You will be monitored by a physician and nurse before, during and after the procedure.


Source: Hopkinsmedicine.org