Implanted Venous Access Device (Port)

Author: OncoLink Team
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A port, sometimes called a Port-a-Cath or an implanted venous access device, is a device that is made up of a reservoir attached to a soft, small, long, hollow tube. The reservoir is placed under the skin and the tube is placed into a vein. The reservoir will look like a bump under the skin. It is usually round and about the size of a quarter. The tube is not usually noticeable. The purpose for a port is to make it easy to give injections or draw blood for labs. For patients having chemotherapy over a long period of time, a port may be recommended. 

A port can be placed in the chest, abdomen or arm. A surgical procedure is done in a hospital operating room or radiology department to place the port. Once the port has been put in, you may have an X-ray to check the position. You may be given anesthesia or you may be awake for the surgical procedure. Placement does not take long and has few side effects. Some bruising, tenderness and swelling are common. Stitches, steri-strips or surgical glue will be used to close the site used to place the port.

Unlike other types of central lines, a port can only be used once a needle has been put into it. A needle will be put in to give chemotherapy, medications or to draw blood. Putting the needle in is a sterile procedure. A numbing medication may be used before putting the needle in to decrease pain at the site. You will most likely be asked to lay flat. The nurse inserting the needle will feel for the reservoir. The nurse will put on sterile gloves and the site will be cleaned. The needle will be placed into the reservoir and the site will be covered with a dressing. The needle placed into your port is attached to a lumen (clear tube) with a cap at the end. This will be used to give medications/chemotherapy or to draw labs. Once your infusion is complete or your labs have been drawn, your nurse will remove the dressing and then remove the needle. A bandaid may be used to cover the site where the needle was placed.

Management

  • Follow the surgeon’s directions for how you should care for your port. This may include to look for signs of infection including redness, swelling, pain, discharge, and warmth and avoid heavy lifting.
  • Always wash your hands and put on gloves prior to handling any tubing for infusions attached to the port. Once complete, gloves should be removed and hands once again washed.
  • While a needle is in place care should be taken to not pull on the lumen to prevent the needle from becoming dislodged. If the dressing becomes soiled or wet it should be changed immediately.
  • A port should be flushed prior to use and after use. Flushing entails attaching a syringe filled with normal saline solution and administering the fluid into the port through the cap.
  • A patient should look at his or her port site every day. Even after the surgical site has healed you should check for signs of infection including redness, swelling, pain, discharge, and warmth. Also, check that the reservoir is secure under your skin and not moving.
  • If your port is not currently being used, your port will be flushed with normal saline once a month. If you no longer need your port it can be removed.

When to contact your care team

You should call your provider if you have any signs of infection. If fluids administered into the port do not flow freely or the skin around the port is swelling, stop the infusion and call your care team. Contact your care team if you notice changes in the appearance of the area around the injection site or if the reservoir is moving around underneath your skin.

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