4 questions you may have about ports

VCU Health Baird 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.

For long term IV access, 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 such as:

  • Chemotherapy or anti-cancer drug infusions
  • Hemodialysis
  • Long-term intravenous antibiotic treatment
  • Long-term intravenous feeding
  • Repeated drawing of blood samples

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.

If you’ve been told you need a port, you may have questions – here are 4 questions people want to know.

Is having a port painful? Having a device implanted under your skin can seem frightening to many people as is concern for ongoing pain. As with any medical procedure, you can expect some pain after the insertion, but ongoing pain is minimal, and relative to each individual patient’s level of pain tolerance. We talked to Dr. Shep Morano about ports. “You’ll notice that you can see and maybe even feel the reservoir of port area under the skin,” said Dr. Morano, “you can also sometimes feel and see part of the catheter as it runs over the clavicle and into the vein into the base of the neck.” For most people, he continued, “They don’t even notice the port after a while, it just becomes part of their body and it doesn’t bother them or even notice it that much.”

What is a cancer port pillow? A cancer port small pillow with a strap is sometimes used to cover seat belts, purse handles, cross body bags, or other straps that may rub against the port. They can be handmade or found at several online retailers.

Can my port get infected? Just like any other medical device, certain precautions must be taken to care for your port. We wrote a blog post a while back on port care, but the best thing to remember is follow the instructions from your physician and care team, and be sure to contact us if anything seems out of the ordinary.

What is a cancer port tattoo? When we went to research questions related to ports, a cancer port tattoo was something that was frequently searched online. Like many life experiences, some people commemorate their cancer journey through body art like tattoos. A cancer port tattoo is simply a tattoo that uses artwork to cover or minimize the appearance of the scar where the port was placed. Whether or not to have one is a deeply personal choice, but many cancer survivors view their tattoo as a badge of strength, or a symbol of renewal and hope.

If you need a port, or have questions, call us at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options.

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.

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

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?

ShoulderwithXportisp

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

What are some clothing options to cover my port?

When considering clothing options during any kind of treatment that requires a port, it’s important to remember not to choose any articles of clothing that bind or restrict excessively, to prevent any damage to the line.

If you want to detract away from the visibility of the port, choose clothing options that are patterned to help camouflage the area. For women, consider fabrics that drape loosely around the neckline, or have pin tucks, gathers or small pleats. For men, a t-shirt worn under a button up shirt helps to smooth out the area.

If you prefer, there are garment manufacturers that make clothing pieces that are attractive, functional and allow for easy access to a variety of port locations. Here are some options that are available online:

The craft and handmade site Etsy features a number of adaptive clothing alternatives via a search of “adaptive clothing for chemo.” Here is one example.

The key is to find clothing that you can feel comfortable and confident wearing, while still keeping the area of the port uncompromised. As with many daily activities a patient with a significant illness encounters, doing what works best for you, while still maintaining comfort is the goal.

How would I know if there was an issue with my port?

During cancer treatment or other health issues, your healthcare team may need frequent access to your veins to give you treatment. To avoid placement of a new IV line for each treatment, or repeated needle sticks to draw blood, your physician may recommend a port (such as a port-a-cath) or other long term IV access.

There are a few potential side effects and risks that should be discussed with your doctor. The risks may include infections, blockages or clots, and other problems that are less common, such as kinks under the skin or a shift in the position of the port.

If you experience any of the following issues, you should contact your physician immediately.

  • You develop a fever
  • Fluid is leaking from the port or area surrounding the port
  • There is bleeding from the area of insertion
  • The surrounding skin becomes swollen, red or warm to the touch
  • It becomes difficult to get liquid into the port
  • You develop uncharacteristic shortness of breath or dizziness
  • The tube outside your body is longer that it was previously

The VCU Baird Vascular Institute provides convenient services if issues arise with your port. We understand how important it is to be close to home when you have health concerns. Our expert physicians specialize in placing port-a-caths, and other IV catheters and are also exceptional at diagnosing and remedying issues with previously placed ports.

Source: http://www.cancer.net