Types and Function
A chemotherapy port is a device placed under the surface of a patient's skin to allow easy access to organs or the circulatory system for chemotherapy drugs. Chemotherapy can often be harsh on skin and veins. The insertion of a central venous or Intraperitoneal port helps protect the patient's body from unnecessary damage to peripheral veins in the arms and legs.
There are two common types of ports, intraperitoneal (IP) and central venous (CV.) An IP-port allows access to the abdominal cavity and is indicated for ovarian and gastrointestinal cancers. A CV-port is inserted into the central venous vein below the collarbone for most other types of cancers.
One additional advantage of a C- port is that blood can also be drawn from it, eliminating an extra stick.
A port has a small titanium reservoir with a rubber cover. A small plastic tube or catheter is attached to one side that will either be threaded into the vein or into the abdominal cavity.
The port is placed within the body by a surgeon or radiologist. Placement is a simple outpatient surgery, done either under general or local anesthetic, depending on the doctor. The doctor makes a two-inch incision and, within a pocket just under the skin, places the reservoir then threads the catheter into place. An x-ray is taken to ensure the catheter is properly placed. After insertion there is a small bump underneath the skin that is usually not noticeable to other people.
As with any surgical procedure, during recovery time at home, patients should monitor temperature and immediately report symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or inability to urinate.
Use and Care
For the patient, the care of a port is easy. Immediately after insertion, keep the incision area dry and clean. Once the incision is healed, the patient may engage in his usually activities. Most of the port's care is performed by the nurses who administer the medications.
Access is gained to the port by a Huber needle. The area over the reservoir is swapped with alcohol before needle insertion. The needle is attached to the tubing. Chemotherapy is administered through this tubing. The nurse flushes it with an anticoagulant medicine, such as Heparin to clear the lines and dissolve any blood that has clotted. Heparin is not used in IP-port flushing. In that case, a simple flush with saline will do.
Once blood work is drawn and the chemotherapy is administered, the nurse flushes the port again and removes the needle. It's important to note, ports that aren't frequently used need to be flushed by a nurse at least once a month.
Once the patient is done with chemo, the port is removed by a doctor in an outpatient procedure.