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.

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 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

5 Reasons You Should Choose VCU Baird Institute

Baird Institute

1. We offer the very best expertise and knowledge of a prominent academic medical center, with a neighborhood feel. 

Backed by the expertise of VCU Medical Center, as well as access to their full array of services, the VCU Baird Vascular Institute is the only academically based vascular center in Central Virginia.

The VCU Baird Vascular Institute relies on a unique team of interventional radiologists and vascular surgeons with state-of-the-art technology, to maintain our high standards of excellent care. We offer our patients a full suite of both traditional exams and new, cutting-edge procedures, to diagnose their problems quickly and efficiently, and to provide therapeutic interventions, if needed. Our patients receive the highest level of treatment from our experienced team of advanced radiologists and vascular surgeons.

2. We have the latest in technology and techniques to diagnose and treat vascular disease.

Vascular ultrasound is a noninvasive ultrasound method used in vascular screening to evaluate your blood circulation. A vascular ultrasound may also be called a duplex study since it combines traditional ultrasound and Doppler ultrasound. The screening exam does not require the use of needles, dyes, radiation or anesthesia. Ultrasound imaging uses a small transducer or probe, and ultrasound gel placed directly on the skin.

Using image-guided techniques, our interventional radiologists and vascular surgeons are able to diagnose and treat almost any vascular condition not related to the heart or brain.

3. We are easy to get to, with convenient parking

You no longer need to travel all the way downtown to take advantage of VCU’s world-class medical services. Easy to reach from almost any area of town, we are located just off Interstate 195 in the near West End at 205 N. Hamilton Street. BVI brings the expertise of VCU Medical Center to a convenient neighborhood setting.

4. We offer a variety of services under one roof.

Our patients have easy access to the full array of expert vascular screening and treatment services offered by the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center.

Services include: vein care, port placement, dialysis access management, IVC/SVC filter placements, vascular ultrasound and peripheral vascular physiologic tests (PVRs, ABIs), vascular screenings, diagnosis and treatment, and diagnosis and treatment for narrowing of arteries in the legs, arms and other areas of the body.

5. We work hand in hand with your referring physician.

We stay in constant contact with our patient referring physicians to help ensure appropriate care. We have a team comprised of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, technologists and administrative staff that are dedicated to the health of our patients and being responsive to our referring physicians. Our onsite manager is responsible to keep things running smoothly, and serves as a point of contact for any questions or issues that may arise.