This information explains your implanted port and how to care for it.
This booklet will tell you about your implanted port. A port may also be called a BardPort®, a Mediport®, a PowerPort®, or a Port-A-Cath®. There are many different ports available (Figure 1). Your doctor will choose the one that is best for you and your treatments.
A port is like an artificial vein. There are many reasons to have a port placed. Some people have veins that are difficult to start an intravenous (IV) for medicine or draw blood from for tests. Some people need to receive chemotherapy continuously for several days. Sometimes, chemotherapy must be given in a vein larger than the ones in your arms. The port allows medicine to be delivered into your bloodstream through a large vein. The port is made from materials that are safe for long-term use in the body.
Implanted ports can stay in place for years. The port should make treatments more comfortable for you. You will be able to get IV fluids safely and easily. It is usually possible to have blood drawn for tests from the port. Some ports are specially designed for use during imaging studies, such as a CT scan. Your doctor will let you know if you have one of these ports. They are called “power-injectable” ports.
An implanted port is made up of two parts: the port and a catheter (Figure 1). The port is a container for fluids that will flow through the catheter. It has a raised center or septum made from a self-sealing rubber material. The catheter is a small plastic flexible tube for (putting fluids into/taking fluids out of) the body. It is connected to the port which sits under your skin. The other end of the catheter sits in a large vein near your heart. A special needle is inserted through the septum to deliver IV fluids or medicine. The medicine moves from the port through the catheter and into the bloodstream.
A port is the size of a nickel or a quarter. It can be circular, oblong, or triangle shaped. It is usually placed about an inch below the center of your right collarbone. The port usually raises your skin about ½ inch above normal. You will most likely be able to feel it through your skin (Figure 2). It will probably not be seen when wearing a V-neck sweater. It most likely will not be placed in the area of a bra strap.
A specially trained nurse can put a needle into your port through your skin. This is called “accessing” your port (Figure 3). Some implanted ports have two septas. You can put a needle in each septum. This is called a double lumen port. It is used for patients that need more than one point of access. If there is only one port, it is called a single lumen port.
Ports are placed either in Interventional Radiology or in the operating room. This is a short procedure. An IV line will be placed in your arm for the procedure. You will be given medicine through your IV that will make you feel drowsy. It will control pain and anxiety. The area where the port will be inserted will be cleaned and numbed with local anesthetic. You will be given anesthetic in two places, your neck and your chest.
The doctor makes a small incision (less than a half inch) above your collarbone. Another incision (1 to 2 inches) is made 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 doctor makes a pocket under the skin, where the port is placed. This pocket will be sutured (sewn) closed.
After the Procedure
At the end of the procedure, you will have one of the following on the site:
- Two small dressings covering the two incisions that have been sutured. If you have these dressings do not get them wet or remove them for three days unless your doctor tells you to.
- A clear, firm material that bonds the skin called Dermabond®. Sometimes small pieces of tape or dressing will cover the Dermabond®. The Dermabond® will stay in place until it wears off. Do not pick or scratch it off. Do not apply lotion or place adhesive on top of the dressing. This could disrupt the Dermabond® and interfere with healing.
If the port will be used that day, an access needle will be in the port covered by a dressing. There will also be a small dressing over the top incision.
It is common for the incision site to feel sore. This pain should lessen within 24 to 48 hours. You can take over-the-counter pain medicine if you need it. Most patients do not need prescription pain medicine. Wearing a seatbelt may put pressure on your incisions. If so, you can put a small pillow or folded towel between the strap and your body.
For the first few days, you should avoid certain activities.
- Do not do exercises that involve forceful reaching or stretching.
- Do not lift anything over 10 pounds while your incision is healing. This is usually about 2 weeks.
- While you have your port, do not play any contact sports.
Once your incision heals, you will be able to return to your normal daily activities. You can swim with the port once your skin has healed and as long as there is no needle in the port. The skin over the port only requires normal washing and bathing. You do not need a bandage if the port is not being used. When the port is used, a transparent dressing will cover the needle. It must be kept in place and dry. Most people will not know that you have a port. The port will not set off metal detectors.
Caring For Your Port
Your port will need to be flushed every 4 weeks when not being used. This is done to make sure the port catheter does not become blocked. If your port becomes blocked, it will no longer work and may have to be removed. The catheter is flushed with a medicine called heparin. Heparin keeps clots from forming. Please notify your doctor if you are allergic to heparin. You will need a special type of port. Flushing your port needs to be done by a specially trained nurse. Do not allow someone to access your port who is not familiar and trained in port access. Your port will also be flushed right before the needle is removed after each treatment or infusion. If your port is properly maintained, it can stay in place for as long as your doctor feels you need it. It will be removed during a procedure that is similar to how it was put in.
After the insertion, call your doctor if:
- You have pain at the site that is new or has increased.
- You notice swelling or a growing bruise at the site.
- You notice pus or fluid coming from the incision.
- The incision is hot, tender, red, or irritated.
- You develop a fever greater than 101° F (38.3° C).