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What Is a Portacath & What Is It Used For?

If you have to get IV treatments done on a regular basis, particularly for cancer treatment, you may have a device implanted called a portacath. This device makes it much easier for doctors to administer IV treatments and collect blood samples.


What is this device, how does it work, and how is it placed in the body? Let’s find out.

What is a Port-a-Cath?


A portacath is a port site for administering intravenous (IV) treatments. It connects to a catheter that runs through a vein near the heart, allowing for IV treatments to easily flow through the bloodstream. Port-A-Cath is a trademark owned by Smiths Medical, and the technical term for it is an implanted port (or just a “port”).


What Is The Port-A-Cath Used For?


The portacath is used primarily for patients who need frequent IV treatments. It’s most commonly used for oncology patients who need chemotherapy treatments.


The reason a portacath is used, rather than simply looking for a vein each time, is because the portacath makes it much easier to get access to the vein.


It’s particularly useful for chemotherapy treatments because the treatment can seep into other areas of the body. Chemotherapy can be toxic to normal cells, so this can cause additional complications.


What Is The Port-a-Cath Placement Procedure Like?


The procedure is a simple procedure that is done under general anesthesia. It’s an outpatient procedure, if the patient isn’t checked into the hospital for anything else. Before the procedure, it’s important to not eat or drink anything except water after midnight on the day of the procedure. If the patient is using aspirin or has a prescription for plavix or warfarin, the doctor needs to know about it so the medications can be stopped at the right time.


Once the patient is ready, the site is given local anesthesia and the patient is sedated. A 3cm incision is placed at the site, and a 5mm incision is placed in the neck to enter the vein. The port is placed subdermally and the catheter is connected at one end and inserted into the vein at the neck. The procedure is complete once the catheter is connected.


How Do I Care For My Port-a-cath?


If your incisions were closed with sutures, you should have 2 small bandages covering the incision. The doctor will tell you how long to leave your bandages on. Make sure not to get them wet. Avoid putting pressure on the incisions, and avoid heavy lifting for up to 5 days after the port is implanted.


If your incisions were closed with Dermabond, make sure not to pick or scratch at the site. Leave the bandage or tape as is until the doctor tells you to remove them. Again: avoid putting pressure on the incisions, and avoid heavy lifting for up to 5 days after the port is implanted.