What is a port-a-cath?

What is that bump on that man’ chest? It is a port-a-cath. Basically, a port-a-cath is an implanted device to receive intravenous solutions.  Usually, when you have blood drawn or need an IV the nurse has no difficulty slipping an IV in.

This isn’t always the case. Some people don’t have such an easy time with IV insertion. The nurse digs and digs, trying to ‘find a vein’. This can cause pain, bruising; and too often the result still is: NO IV 😦

One solution to this problem is a port-a-cath. Implanted in a special surgical suite, a port-a-cath is a circular device where one end is firmly implanted in muscles of the chest wall and a tube is threaded into a vein that eventually reaches the heart. A special kind of intravenous needle is inserted into the port and then fluids move through the port into the tubing and into the general circulation.

Many people who have veins that are not easily accessible, like patients receiving chemotherapy which can be very hard on the veins, receive their chemo through a port-a-cath. There are several kinds of this sort of IV, but none completely implantable like the ‘port.’

Because accessing them is an invasive procedure, they can only be accessed by a nurse. So, for routine blood tests, you are not able to walk into an outpatient lab and ask that blood be drawn through your port. Nurses don’t ‘hang out’ in labs!

Ports and other central lines used to be the purview of chemotherapy. Then they began being used for liquid nutrition and now for many kinds of regular outpatient infusions. Currently, there is one intravenous fluid that is infused for missing immune proteins. This liquid is very thick, like syrup and can be infused by an IV in your arm or hand, but unless you have big veins, this method of infusion often poses a challenge doesn’t last long, and a port is a frequently used option.

 

 

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About Annie

My 20 year nursing career ended when i was diagnosed with lupus. So, I began another career as a freelance writer and advocate for people with chronic illnesses.[wpforms id="12089"] anowlin@mac.com

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