A port-a-catheter is a small plastic device attached to a catheter that is placed below the skin for long-term IV access often for chemotherapy. These can be accessed when needed and the rest of the time, the patient can partake in usual activities as well as showering.
Port-a-catheter’s can last for years. Sometimes, they must be removed if they become clotted or infected. Ports also can be removed after the completion of therapy. Some patients who have difficulty with IVs and need them frequently may benefit from the placement of a port-a-catheter.
A similar device is a Hickman catheter, which is an IV that is tunneled into the skin and underlying tissues. The ports of a Hickman catheter are outside the skin and this catheter is usually a better option for patients only requiring a short course of therapy.
Port-a-catheters are placed in an outpatient setting where the patient can have the procedure and return home in the same day. They are placed under either sedation with local anesthetic or under general anesthesia. These are placed on the upper chest wall right underneath the collarbone. The assistance of fluoroscopy or x-rays is often used. This confirms good placement of the catheter prior to leaving the operating room. A small incision is used and the port is placed in a small pocket underneath the skin. Removal is even simpler with the small incision reopened and the port removed from surrounding tissues.
- No eating or drinking after midnight the night before surgery.
- Please discontinue aspirin or any other blood thinners at least 5 days prior to surgery. Please check with your primary care physician before discontinuing any prescription medications.
- Lab work may be required prior to surgery. This will be scheduled for you.
- Clearance from your primary care physician or a cardiologist may be required prior to surgery. Please bring any notes to this effect to the office or on the day of surgery.
- Please check with your primary care physician or anesthesia as to which of your prescription medications to take on the day of surgery.
- Please have someone available to give you a ride home (not a taxi or bus).
- Resume a regular diet as tolerated.
- Resume other daily activities as tolerated.
- The port is ready to use the day of placement once a chest x-ray has been checked. The chest x-ray will be done before a patient leaves the post-operative area.
- Incisions will have both an outer and inner dressing. The outer dressing can be removed the day after surgery. A patient may shower at this time. The inner dressings resemble band-aids and are known as steri-strips. These should remain in place and will fall off in a few days.
- All sutures are underneath the skin and will dissolve on their own. Occasionally, patients may notice a thread or knot outside the skin. This will dissolve over 2 weeks or it can be removed in the office.
- A follow-up appointment is not necessary after this procedure. If there are problems or the port is poorly functioning, please feel free to contact the office.