Portacath and IV access

Patients who require on-going intra-venous access for treatment of diseases like cancer and blood disorders need a longer term solution than IV lines in the hand. Peripheral IV lines are inserted in the arms for giving drugs and blood products. They can stay in usually for 3 to 4 days and need to be re-sited. At some stage if repeated access is required it can become difficult to find new sites. This is especially true for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy over several months. Also patients requiring long term total parental nutrition (TPN).

Port-o-Caths are lines inserted in your neck veins that sit next to you heart. There is a small metal-silicone port (approx. 2cm) that is placed under the skin on your chest. Each time the IV access is required to give drugs a needle is inserted in to the port to access it and give the medication. While not accessed there is no external tubes, therefore providing you freedom to do activities such as swimming.

Port-o-Caths can be inserted under local or general anaesthetic, but requires it to be done in theatre using ultrasound and x-ray imaging to correctly position it. It is done as a day case and you may need simple analgesia such as Paracetemol for a few days. The common complications are infections, blockage of the port or blood clot around the tubing. It can stay in place for several years if reqularly flushed.

There are other access lines like Hickman’s or Groshong’s lines. These usually protrude through the skin but have other advantages over Ports. You will need to discuss with the physician and surgeon on what is the best option for you.