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All You Need to Know About Chemotherapy Port

All You Need to Know About Chemotherapy Port

A chemo port is a small device that consists of an implantable reservoir. It is placed under the skin below the collar bone; this reservoir is connected to a thin silicone catheter or tube. This vein-access device helps deliver chemotherapy medications directly into the vein, eliminating the need for multiple needle pricks at every chemotherapy cycle.

The procedure for chemo port placement is done in the operation theatre under C-arm (portable X-ray) guidance. The area where the port is to be placed is cleaned, and a local anaesthetic injection is given at two places (neck and chest); this numbs the area. This procedure is performed under general anaesthesia under certain circumstances, like an apprehensive patient or a child.

A chemo port is very beneficial to a patient undergoing chemotherapy as all the blood investigations, chemotherapy cycles and supportive intravenous medications can be given through it. This decreases the anxiety of multiple pricks and reduces the chances of extravasation injuries and thrombophlebitis, leading to hassle-free treatments.

Usually, a chemo port is centrally placed under the skin near a large vein in the upper chest. This can be an excellent alternative to an intravenous (IV) catheter peripherally placed in an arm or hand vein (a suitable IV site can sometimes be difficult to find). Easily accessible by a patient’s treatment team, a port can provide a safer and more efficient medication delivery process than an IV. And while a port will produce a visible, quarter-sized “bump” under the skin, it can be easily covered with regular clothing.

How to care for the chemo port?

It is important to follow precautions once a chemo port has been placed. If cared as per the instructions, the chemo port can last for two years. It doesn’t hamper daily activities like movements, bathing, etc. Following precautions will help the port to last longer.

Sanitation and hygiene are essential to prevent infections. Once the port is infected, it has to be removed.

The chemo port has to be flushed every 4th week by heparinised saline. This has to be done by a trained Onco-care nurse under aseptic precautions to avoid complications.

The medications/chemotherapy/sample withdrawal must be attempted by professionals only.

A chemo port is now a standard of care practice worldwide for chemotherapy patients. It helps the cancer patients by bringing ease and comfort to taking chemotherapy, thereby increasing the compliance to treatment.

Where is a chemo port implanted?

A chemo port is placed under the skin near a large vein in the upper chest. This can be an excellent alternative to an intravenous (IV) catheter peripherally placed in an arm or hand vein (a suitable IV site can sometimes be difficult to find). It can be easily accessible by a patient’s treatment team. A port can provide a safer and more efficient medication delivery process than an IV. And while a port will produce a visible, quarter-sized “bump” under the skin, it can be easily covered with regular clothing.

How long a chemo port remains in place?

 An IV catheter is reinserted for each treatment session whereas a port can remain in place as long as necessary. It can remain for several weeks, months or even years. The port can be removed through a relatively simple outpatient procedure when it is no longer needed.

Advantages of a chemo port

There are advantages and disadvantages to having a chemo port like any surgical procedure. The advantages include:

-When a traditional IV is used, chemo drugs may extravasate (leak) and damage surrounding tissues. A chemo port reduces the risk since the delivery vein is large. The leakage, if any, is usually limited to the reservoir.

-You can usually bathe and even swim without concern about infection because the port is completely encased under the skin.

-A port site is equipped with a sterile technique, which ensures that all surfaces are free of microorganisms and thus dramatically reduces the risk of infection.

-A port can also deliver fluids and transfusions, draw blood for lab testing, and inject dye for CT and PET scans. 

-A port decreases the chances of medications coming into contact with the skin.

-A port can be used to deliver treatments that extend several days.

Disadvantages of a chemo port

The disadvantages of chemotherapy include:

While the risk of infection in chemo port is comparatively low, it may occur. As per research, around 2% of chemo ports need to be exchanged due to an infection.

Many people with a chemo port may develop a blood clot (thrombosis) which can block the catheter. An injection of the blood-thinner heparin is used into the catheter to unblock this blockage. But sometimes, it does not work, and the port is exchanged. 

Mechanical problems like the movement of the catheter or a separation of the port from the skin may occur sometimes. It stops the chemo port from functioning.

 Activities like bathing and swimming can be performed with a chemo port, but oncologists recommend avoiding heavy workouts involving the chest until chemotherapy is done.

Some people find that having a permanent scar on their upper chest is an upsetting reminder of their cancer experience. They may also choose not to have a spot for cosmetic reasons.

Any surgical procedure carries risks, including the risk of bleeding. A rare complication called pneumothorax (collapsed lung) can occur if the lung is accidentally punctured. Pneumothorax has been reported in 1% of cases.

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