What is a Port?
A port is a small venous access device (about the size of a quarter) used to deliver medicine into the bloodstream. Implanted under your skin usually in the upper chest, a port is made up of the port body and a catheter.
The port body has distinct chambers that are sealed with a soft, silicone septum that can be pierced with needles. A soft, plastic catheter connects to the port body and the catheter tip is placed into one of the large central veins in the chest that carry blood to your heart.
Ports are used in patients requiring frequent administration of chemotherapy, blood transfusions, antibiotics, intravenous feeding, or blood draws. Medications can be injected into the septum and blood samples can be drawn many times from the port, usually with less discomfort than the usual needle stick.
How Your Port Will Be Used
Ports have many uses, including:
- Administration of medication
- IV fluids
- Drawing blood samples
- Administration of chemotherapy
A port eliminates the need for repeated needle sticks into the veins of your arm. Because the port delivers medications into your large central veins, the medications mix with your blood. This dilutes the medications so they are less harmful to your veins.
Port Placement Procedure
Port placement is a short procedure performed by a vascular specialist, under local anesthesia and under sterile conditions. Your healthcare team will wear a mask, hat, sterile gown and gloves during the procedure to prevent infection.
Before the procedure, an IV line will be placed in your arm. You will receive medication through your IV to relax you and to control any pain or anxiety. The area where the port will be inserted will be scrubbed and numbed with a local anesthetic.
During the placement procedure, a small incision is made above your collarbone and another incision under your collarbone. A tunnel is created under your skin between the two openings. The catheter will be passed through this tunnel and then gently threaded into a large central vein in your chest. Your doctor will make a pocket under your skin, where the port will be placed and secured. This pocket and your incisions will be closed with sutures. Small bandages will cover the incisions.
After your port is placed, keep the bandages dry and clean. It is common to feel sore at the incision site, but the discomfort should subside within 48 hours. Don’t lift anything heavier than 10 pounds for 3 to 5 days.
Port Removal Procedure
You may need local anesthesia and/or medication for pain relief and to relax you. Your doctor will make a small cut in your skin where the port is placed. Then they will gently remove the port and the catheter.
What are the Benefits of a Port?
A port allows the healthcare practitioner to deliver medications and fluids or withdraw blood samples without having to stick your arm veins directly with a needle. The port makes these procedures more comfortable for you, especially if frequent access to the bloodstream for medication delivery or blood withdrawal is required for your treatment.
A port has the following benefits:
- Remains in place for weeks, months, or years, depending on how long it’s needed
- Reduces the number of needle sticks to your veins to draw blood or infuse medication or fluids
- Lessens pain and reduces time spent trying to access a suitable vein
- Administered medications are diluted by your blood, causing less damage to the surrounding tissues
- More than one type of medication or other treatment can be given at the same time using a port with two chambers
What is a PICC?
A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) is a long, thin, flexible tube (catheter) that is placed into one of the large veins of your arm, above the bend of your elbow. Some PICCs divide into 2 or 3 different lines allowing you to receive different treatments at the same time. PICCs can stay in place within your vein for days or weeks depending on your individual venous access needs.
What are the Benefits of a PICC?
A PICC can be used for many types of IV treatments or to obtain blood for laboratory testing. This is more comfortable compared to the many needle sticks that would have been needed for giving medications and drawing blood. The goal is to spare your veins from these frequent needle sticks.
A PICC can also spare your veins and blood vessels from the irritating effects of IV medications and can be used at home and remain in place for weeks or months, if needed.
PICC Placement Procedure
A PICC is placed under sterile conditions so your healthcare team will wear a mask, hat, sterile gown and gloves during the procedure.
First, your doctor or nurse will use ultrasound to identify and locate the veins in your upper arm. To prevent infection, your arm will be scrubbed and covered with a sterile drape. A local anesthetic will numb the area where the PICC is to be placed. The PICC will be inserted into a vein just above the bend of your elbow and the tip will be guided into your superior vena cava (SVC), a large vein in your chest. Most patients feel little or no discomfort during this procedure.
Once the PICC is in place, it is secured to your arm with tape and covered with a sterile dressing. A chest x-ray is taken afterwards to confirm that the tip of the PICC is in the correct location and any last adjustments are made. You will be able to bend and use your arm just as you would without the PICC in place.
What Are the Risks During and After Placement of a PICC?
- Slight discomfort during the procedure
- Bleeding at the insertion site
- More than one attempt is sometimes necessary
- Accidental puncture of an artery, nerve, or tendon can occur near the insertion site (this is rare)
- A clot may form around the catheter in the vein (thrombosis) causing swelling and pain in your arm
- Inflammation in your vein (phlebitis) can develop from the use of all types of IVs, including PICCs
- Infection at the insertion site or in the bloodstream
- If not well-secured, the PICC can come out, partially or completely
- A PICC can move out of position in your vein and may need to be removed or repositioned
- A PICC may become blocked requiring that medication be used to clear the blockage
How We Can Help You With Port Placement Procedure and Removal
If you need a port or PICC to receive IV medication, our specialists at Azura Vascular Care offer minimally invasive procedures to place both types of venous access devices. When the port or PICC is no longer needed, we can remove it for you at one of our centers.
At Azura Vascular Care, we work every day to deliver far more than our patients expect. We bring our full range of medical capabilities and service excellence to every patient, every visit at each of our centers nationwide.
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