Port Placement - Interventional Radiology
It has been recommended that you have a “port” placed. This handout explains some of the common questions patients have about the procedure and the care of the port.
What is a port?
A port is a device that allows an easy and reliable way to give medicine into the veins and take blood samples from the veins.
It is implanted under the chest skin. It is about a half inch thick and about the size of a quarter. You can feel its raised center under your skin. A flexible piece of tubing (catheter) is connected to it. This is tunneled under the skin to an area near the neck where it enters a vein.
The center of the port is made of a tough, self-sealing, rubber-like material that can be punctured through the chest skin with a special needle many times. Each time it will reseal instantly.
Why do I need a port?
Since you may need frequent intravenous (IV) medicines or blood draws, your healthcare provider has ordered a port for you. Patients who have ports often say that they are relieved that they do not have to be poked over and over to find a good vein.
Because the port is implanted under the skin it is not very noticeable. Once it has healed, it needs little care from you. People like the fact that they can go on with their normal daily routines (including showering and swimming) without worrying about the port.
What are the risks?
Once the port is in place and healed, there is very little chance of infection. There is a risk of infection until the port heals. You will be told how to prevent infection until the port is healed.
Another time the port is at risk for infection is when the port is “accessed”. This is when a trained person inserts the proper needle into the middle rubber portion of the port. Only a healthcare provider experienced in port care should do this.
Because a small incision will be made in the chest skin there is a chance of bleeding in the form of bruising or oozing of blood from the incision. Laboratory work will be done before the port is placed to make sure that your blood clots properly so there is no concern about too much bleeding.
How do I prepare for the port procedure?
- A Nurse Practitioner (NP) from the Interventional Radiology Department will call you to review this information with you. Please tell the NP if you take blood thinners, are allergic to anything, or are pregnant.
- Do not eat anything for 6 hours before the port insertion. You may have clear liquids such as clear juices or black coffee up until 4 hours before the insertion.
- In general, you may take your normal morning medicines with a sip of water.
- On the day of the procedure, women are asked to wear the type of bra that they normally wear. A nurse will mark where your bra strap lays so that the port can be inserted in an area where the bra strap will not rub.
- Because you will only need to take off your clothes from the waist up, you should wear comfortable bottom clothing and a top that is easy to take off.
- You must have someone with you to drive you home after the procedure. After receiving sedation for the procedure, you should not drive or make important personal or business decisions until the next day.
How is the port inserted?
Before the procedure, labs will be drawn and an intravenous line (IV) will be placed in your arm. The IV will be used to give you an antibiotic, a sedative or medicine to help you relax, and pain medicine.
You will be taken to the radiology suite where a technologist will wash your upper right or left chest and neck with a special soap. To reduce the risk of infection, your chest, neck, and head will be covered with a sterile drape. The drape is made into a tent so that it does not lie on your face. To keep you cool, fresh air is circulated under the drape through a piece of tubing. The drape is cut open so that you can see out from under it.
Once you are ready for the procedure, the nurse will begin to give you the sedative and pain medicine in your IV. The radiologist will also inject a local numbing medicine under the skin. This burns for a few seconds but then the skin will be numb.
The radiologist will insert a small tube into the vein in your neck. Then, a small pocket will be made under your chest skin about 2-3 inches below your collarbone. The port will fit into the pocket. After that, the tubing that is connected to the port is tunneled under the chest skin so that it enters the neck vein. All of this is done under the guidance of fluoroscopy (real time x-ray seen on a TV screen).
Once everything is in place the port pocket will be closed with a sterile surgical glue. Sometimes, stitches are used too. The neck site will be closed with special tape.
You will need to return in 7 - 10 days to have the port site checked (if you have stitches, these will be removed). An appointment will be set up for you before you leave.
After the procedure you will recover for about 2 hours. Your heart rate and breathing will be watched. The port site will be checked often to make sure that you don’t have too much bleeding.
Once you have recovered, your driver can take you home to rest.
How do I care for the port?
- Keep the port site dry until after the appointment to have the site checked in our clinic 7 - 10 days after the placement. You can use saran wrap and tape to cover the site for showering. This will prevent infection until the port is healed.
- Keep a dressing over the port site for the first 3 days. After that, the dressing should be removed. Do not do anything special to the site except keep it open to air and dry.
- You should have little pain. At home, over-the-counter medicines that you take for aches and pains can be used if you have discomfort at the port site.
- Women should wear a bra during the day.
- Check the port site for signs of infection:
- Extreme redness
- Pus drainage
- Extreme pain/tenderness
- Extreme warmth at the site
- Once the port has healed and is not being used regularly it will need to be flushed every month so that it does not clot off. This should be arranged with the clinic that used your port for treatments or blood draws.
When should I call the Clinic?
Please call if you have:
- questions about the care of the port.
- any of the above signs of infection.
- excessive bleeding/swelling.
- fever above 101° F for 2 separate readings taken 4 hours apart.
Interventional Radiology Clinic, Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m, (608) 263-8355.
After hours, weekends, and holidays, please call (608) 262-0486. This will give you the paging operator. Ask for the Interventional Radiology Resident on call. Give the operator your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live far away you may use our toll free number: 1-800-323-8942.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 01/28/2013
Copyright © 08/06/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5958
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