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Portacath Insertion

A portacath is an implanted device that allows long-term access to veins. It is used for patients requiring chemotherapy or other long term intravenous medication such as antibiotics.

What is a portacath insertion?

Insertion of a vascular access device to allow long-term venous access.  

The portacath has two parts – a port and a catheter.  

The port is a metal chamber with a silicone self-sealing front allowing it to be accessed many times with a special needle.

The catheter is a fine tube that allows the medication to be delivered from the port into a large vein.


Why should I have a portacath insertion?

If you need chemotherapy or other long-term venous medication such as antibiotics you may benefit from a portacath.  

Chemotherapy agents can be toxic to small veins causing damage and pain, the tip of the portacath lies in a large vein, allowing easy access to your venous system and the medication to be rapidly dispersed.   The port can remain in place for many years.


How is the surgery performed?

You will have a general anaesthetic.

An incision is made on the chest wall and a pocket created to hold the port.

A vein is accessed either on the chest wall or your neck and using x-ray guidance, a small tube (catheter) is fed down this vein until the tip is sitting in a large vein in your chest just above your heart.

This other end of the catheter is tunnelled under your skin and attached to the port. All components of the portacath are buried under the skin, with nothing exposed.

The skin incisions are closed with dissolving sutures and a waterproof dressing is placed.


What are the risks of portacath insertion?

Infection, bleeding, injury to a vessel, pneumothorax (lung puncture), venous thrombosis.


Before the operation

You will be admitted on the day of surgery.

You should not eat or drink anything for 6 hours prior to the operation.

Your surgeon will discuss with you the best place to position the port prior to your operation.


After the operation

In the recovery area you will have a chest x-ray.

Once you have recovered from the anaesthetic and the chest x-ray has been reviewed you will be able to go home.

Once the wound is healed, usually after 10 – 14 days, you no longer require a dressing.

If your port is not being used, it should be flushed every month to ensure it does not get blocked.

When you no longer require a portacath it can be removed in a similar manner, often people only require a local anaesthetic +/- sedation for removal.