A subcutaneous port, (also known as an implantable venous port or Port-a-Cath), is a type of catheter.
It allows for the delivery of chemotherapy treatment, blood transfusions, antibiotics, intravenous (IV) fluids, or blood samples for testing over a long period of time so that a patient does not have to have repeated needle punctures of the skin. The port has a small round chamber (portal) with a rubber top (septum) and a flexible tube (catheter) that is placed completely under the skin in the upper chest. After an injection into the port and before the needle is removed, the port will be flushed with a small amount of heparin to prevent blood from clotting inside the catheter. The subcutaneous port must be flushed after each treatment and at least once every 4 weeks to prevent infection or other complications.
Benefits of a Subcutaneous Port
There are many benefits to having a subcutaneous port rather than a regular IV catheter. The most important benefit is that it reduces the number of needle sticks.
- Reduces discomfort
- Does not require a dressing once the skin has healed and a needle is no longer in place
- No burning sensation
- Does not restrict activity
- Allows for bathing, exercise, swim and play once the incision heals
- Requires no care at home
When a patient needs a subcutaneous port placed in the body it is typically done in an operating room setting under general anesthesia. Sometimes local anesthesia is used for adults and older children. During placement Dr. Tilara will make two small incisions in the skin – one in the chest to place the port and the other near the collarbone where the catheter will enter a vein in the lower part of the neck. The catheter is placed in a large vein in the neck and threaded into or near the right atrium of the heart. The other end of the catheter is tunnelled under the skin and attached to the port. The port is then placed under the skin in the chest and stitched to the underlying muscle. The site may be tender for a few days but will heal quickly and secure the port.