This information explains your implanted port and how to care for it.

About Your Implanted Port

An implanted port (also known as a “port”) is like an artificial vein. It will make it easier for your healthcare team to access your blood vessels for medications and tests.

The port has many uses. It may be used to:

  • Give you intravenous (IV) medication.
  • Give you IV fluids.
  • Draw blood for tests.
  • Give you chemotherapy continuously for several days. Sometimes, chemotherapy must be given in a vein larger than the ones in your arms. The port allows the medication to be delivered into your bloodstream through a large vein near your heart.

Some ports are specially designed for use during imaging studies, such as computed tomography (CT) scans. These are called “power-injectable” ports. Your doctor will let you know if you have a power-injectable port.

What the implanted port looks like

Your port will be the size of a nickel or a quarter. It can be circular, oval, or triangle shaped (see Figure 1). There are many different ports available. Your doctor will choose the one that is best for you and your treatments. Your port may be called a BardPort®, a Mediport®, a PowerPort®, or a Port-A-Cath®.

Figure 1.

The port is usually placed about an inch below the center of your right collarbone (see Figure 2). It will usually be about 1 inch from where your bra strap lies.

Figure 2.

Your port may raise your skin about ½ inch above normal. You will most likely be able to feel it through your skin. It will probably not be seen when you wear a V-neck sweater. Most people will not know that you have a port.

Implanted ports can stay in place for years. Once you no longer need the port, it will be removed.

The parts of your port

An implanted port is made up of 2 parts: the port with a septum and a catheter (see Figure 1).

  • The port is the starting point of fluid flow through the catheter. It sits under your skin and has a raised center, called a septum. The septum is made from a self-sealing rubber material. This is the part of the port where needles will be inserted, also known as the access point.
  • The catheter is a small, plastic, flexible tube. One end of the catheter is connected to the port, and the other end sits in a large vein near your heart.

Your nurse will insert a special needle through the access point to deliver IV fluids or medication. This is called “accessing” your port (see Figure 3). The medication moves from the port through the catheter and into your bloodstream.

Figure 3.

Types of implanted ports

There are 2 types of implanted ports:

  • A single lumen port is a port with 1 access point. Most people will get a single lumen port.
  • A double lumen port is a port with 2 access points. You can put a needle in each access point. Double lumen ports are used for people that need more than one point of access.
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About Your Implanted Port Placement

Before you have your port placed, tell your doctor if you are allergic to a medication called heparin. Heparin prevents blood clots from forming.  You will need a special type of port.

Your port will be placed either in Interventional Radiology or in the operating room. Port placement is a short procedure. Your doctor or nurse will tell you how to prepare for it.

Before the procedure, you will have an IV line placed in your arm. You will get medication through your IV that will make you feel drowsy. The medication will control pain and anxiety.

The area where the port will be inserted will be cleaned and numbed with local anesthetic (medication that numbs an area of your body). You will be given local anesthetic in 2 places, your neck and your chest.

During your procedure, your doctor will make a small incision (surgical cut) above your collarbone and another incision under your collarbone. They will make a tunnel under your skin between the 2 openings. The catheter will be passed through this tunnel and then gently threaded into your vein. Your doctor will make a pocket under your skin, where the port will be placed. This pocket and your incisions will be closed with either sutures (stitches) or surgical glue called Dermabond®.

After your port placement

Caring for your incision site

  • If your incisions were closed with sutures, you will have 2 small bandages covering the incisions. Don’t get these bandages wet. Leave them in place for 3 days, or as long as your doctor tells you to.
  • If your incisions were closed with Dermabond, you may have small pieces of tape or bandages covering the incisions. Don’t apply lotion or place adhesive on top of the tape or bandage. Don’t pick or scratch the Dermabond. It will come off on its own.

It is common for the incision site to feel sore. This pain should get better in 24 to 48 hours. You can take over-the-counter pain medication if you need it. Most people don’t need prescription pain medication.

Wearing a seatbelt may put pressure on your incisions. You can put a small pillow or folded towel between the strap and your body to help with this.

If your port will be used the day it is placed, your doctor will insert an access needle into the septum during the port placement. The needle and port will be covered by a bandage. There will also be a small bandage over the top incision.

For the 3 to 5 days after your port placement don’t lift anything heavier than 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms).

After your incision heals

Once your incision heals, you can to return to your normal daily activities. You can swim with your implanted port as long as there is no needle in the port. However, while you have your port, don’t play any contact sports such as football.

The skin over the port doesn’t need any special care. You can wash it as you normally would.

You don’t need a bandage over the port when it’s not being used. When the port is being used, you will have a transparent dressing (covering) over the needle. The dressing must be kept dry and in place while the needle is in the port.

Your port will not set off metal detectors. 

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Caring For Your Port

Your port will need to be flushed every 4 weeks when it’s not being used. This is done to make sure the catheter doesn’t become blocked. If your port becomes blocked, it will no longer work and may have to be removed. Your port will also be flushed right before the needle is removed after each treatment or infusion.

Your nurse will flush your port with heparin. If you’re allergic to heparin, your port will be flushed with saline.

Don’t let anyone who is not trained in port access to access your port.

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Call Your Doctor or Nurse if You:

  • Have new or increased pain at the site of your port
  • Have swelling or a growing bruise at the site of your port
  • Have pus or fluid coming from your incision(s)
  • Notice your incision(s) are hot, tender, red, or irritated
  • Have a temperature of 101° F (38.3° C) or higher
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