A portacath is a small intravenous (IV) catheter that’s placed beneath your skin in your upper chest. Although some patients receive these medical devices because they require frequent blood transfusions, blood draws, antibiotics, or intravenous feeding, it’s most often used to administer chemotherapy to cancer patients. Board-certified surgeon Dr. Dennis Streeter in Merrillville, Indiana, performs portacath placement surgery for oncology patients in northwestern Indiana. To learn more, call or book your appointment online today.
Commonly called a port, the term portacath combines the word “portal” with the word “catheter.” The device has two components: The port, or reservoir, and the catheter, or tube.
Small, round, and made of medical-grade titanium, the port is implanted just under your skin in your upper chest. Its single chamber is covered by a plastic membrane that allows your oncology nurse or physician to insert a needle into the port and deliver chemotherapy drugs. Because this plastic membrane is made of self-sealing plastic, it can be punctured numerous times.
The catheter portion of the device runs from the port to a large vein near your heart.
A portacath can be safely left in place for several years. If you’re going to have yours in place long-term, your oncology practice will arrange for monthly saline flushes so that the port won’t become blocked.
Portacath insertion is a standard surgical procedure that Dr. Streeter typically performs at an outpatient surgery center. Because it’s done with local anesthesia, you’ll feel relaxed during the procedure, but you’ll still be aware.
Dr. Streeter places the port within your chest wall after making a small incision and creating a pocket beneath the skin where the port can sit. Using ultrasound guidance, he’ll then make another small incision above your collarbone so he can feed the catheter into one of the large veins in your chest.
Next, he’ll make a small incision in your skin beneath your collarbone so he can connect the other end of the catheter to the port. Using X-ray imaging, he’ll be able to verify that the catheter is positioned correctly.
Finally, he’ll close the incisions under your collarbone and the side of your neck with dissolvable sutures and cover them with a small sterile dressing.
Portacath placement is a quick procedure that typically takes just 30-45 minutes for most patients. You can expect to stay at the hospital for one or two hours, however, as Dr. Streeter and his team make sure you’re recovering normally.
The area around your port may be swollen and tender for a day or two. If you need it, you can use an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen.
You may shower 24 hours after receiving your portacath, as long as it’s covered with a waterproof dressing. If the dressing gets damp, you’ll need change it for a dry one. You may have a bath after two weeks; once the wound is healed, it won’t require any type of dressing.
It’s recommended that you avoid strenuous activity and heavy lifting for at least two weeks following the procedure.
To make sure you’re healing properly, you’ll have a follow-up visit at Dr. Streeter’s office within a week of your procedure.