What is a chest port?
A chest port (sometimes called a “Port-a-cath®”) is a special device that's used to provide routine access to your blood vessels so medication can be administered and blood samples can be taken without the need for repeated needle sticks. The chest port device is composed of a flexible tube called a catheter that's implanted into your chest and a reservoir or port that's implanted just beneath the surface of your skin below your collarbone. The end of the catheter will extend into a large vein in your chest.
How does a chest port compare to an IV?
Ports offer several advantages over IVs for patients with long-term care needs. First, a port can be left in place for a long period of time – even years, if necessary. Ports enable administration of a much broader range of medications compared to IVs, which are not ideal for administration of some types of medications. Once a port is placed, it can be used to take blood samples over time to monitor the effectiveness of treatment, eliminating the need for multiple needle jabs. And because they're concealed beneath the skin, ports are far less prone to infection compared to IVs that have openings on the skin's surface. Ports are used in patients who require ongoing medical treatments that include regular administration of medications directly to the blood vessels, including chemotherapy, kidney dialysis and nutrition therapy for bowel or digestive tract diseases.
What happens during chest port placement?
The port placement procedure is performed in a minor surgical procedure that's performed on an outpatient basis, meaning you'll go home the same day the port is placed. Placement can be performed under sedation and local anesthesia without the need for general anesthesia. The port is placed through an incision that measures about an inch or two in length. After the port placement procedure, healing will occur within about 14 days, after which you can resume your regular activities. Once in place, medication can be administered or blood can be drawn using a needle inserted into the port. A special sterile bandage will be placed around the port following its use to prevent infection. Every so often, the port will need to be flushed to prevent clots and ensure the port opening is still accessible. Once your medical treatment is complete and you no longer need your port for medication administration or blood testing, it can be removed in a second simple outpatient procedure.