What you need to know about a getting a port

September 12, 2018 | by Alexander Hantel, M.D.

You have a lot of decisions to make before you begin cancer treatment, like whether you want to have a central venous catheter (CVC) to help make treatment easier.

Your doctor may recommend you have a CVC inserted to make chemotherapy more comfortable. A CVC, also called a port or PICC line, can reduce the discomfort of multiple needle pricks, and provide you the ability to:

  • Get more than one drug at a time or get continuous infusion chemo
  • Get intravenous (IV) nutrition
  • Get frequent treatments, or get treatments at home
  • Get long-term therapy over many months
  • Get IV medication or fluids
  • Provide blood samples
  • Lower the risk of tissue damage associated with getting certain drugs that can leak outside a vein through a short-term IV
  • Avoid treatment delays by reducing the time needed to prepare your hand or arm for a needle

The type of CVC you need can depend on:

  • How long you’ll be getting treatment
  • How long it takes to infuse each dose of chemo
  • How many drugs need to be given at once
  • The cost and the care required to maintain the CVC
  • Other medical problems you may have

There are many different types of catheters that your doctor may recommend. One of the most commonly-used kinds is an implanted port. A port is a flexible tube that is placed into a vein, in your chest.

A port is usually made up of metal or plastic and is inserted during outpatient surgery. It sits just under the skin and connects to a catheter that reaches a large vein.

When you need IV fluids or medication, your nurse will use the access point on your port to send fluids or medication directly to your bloodstream. Without a port, a needle must be placed each time you need treatment or require fluids or medication.

The most common complication of a port is an infection. If a port becomes infected, it will often need to be removed and replaced.

Your oncologist can help you determine if a CVC is right for you, and help you manage your port if you get one.

Explore cancer services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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