Chest and Arm Ports

Your doctor has recommended a chest or arm port be placed for further medical treatment.  Now what?

A port is like an artificial vein. There are many reasons to have a port placed. Some people have veins that are difficult to start an intravenous (IV) for medicine or draw blood from for tests. Some people need to receive chemotherapy continuously for several days. Sometimes, chemotherapy must be given in a vein larger than the ones in your arms. The port allows medicine to be delivered into your bloodstream through a large vein. The port is made from materials that are safe for long-term use in the body.

Implanted ports can stay in place for years. The port should make treatments more comfortable for you. You will be able to get IV fluids safely and easily.  Some ports, called “power-injectable” ports are specially designed for use during imaging studies, such as a CT scan. This is the kind of port you will have placed at Steinberg Diagnostic.

Learn more about your port

Your port is a small device (about the size of a quarter) used to carry medicine into the bloodstream.  It has one or two small basins that are sealed with a soft silicone top, called a septum.  The port is placed under the skin on your chest or arm.  The port connects to a small, soft tube called a catheter.  The catheter is placed inside one of the large central veins that take blood to your heart.  When a special needle is put into the septum, it created “access” to your bloodstream.  Medicine and fluids can be given through the needle and blood samples can be withdrawn.

Your port has three bumps on top of each septum.  The port with one septum is also shaped like a triangle.  These features help the nurse know that your port can receive power injections.

Your doctor or nurse can give medicines or fluids and/or take blood samples through your port.  This makes it more comfortable for you.  Because the port places medicines into a large central vein, the medicines mix better in the blood.  The medicines are also diluted so they are less harmful to your veins.

SDMI uses the Bard PowerPort brand of chest and arm port.  Before you leave our office, you will receive a packet of information about your port, including an identification card, bracelet and key ring card.  Be sure to keep you patient identification card with you at all times.

To access the port, your nurse or doctor will place a special needle, called a Huber needle, into the port.  You may feel a mild pricking when they put the needle into the port.  This sensation often gets milder over time.  Ask your doctor or nurse what you should expect.

After your port is placed, an SDMI nurse will place a dressing over the wound, and review with you the proper care instructions.  For the first few days, do not get the dressing wet or remove them unless your doctor tells you to.

If the port will be used that day, an access needle will be in the port covered by a dressing. There will also be a small dressing over the top incision.

It is common for the incision site to feel sore.  This pain should lessen within 24 to 48 hours.  You can take over-the-counter pain medicine if you need it.  Most patients do not need prescription pain medicine. Wearing a seatbelt may put pressure on your incisions. If so, you can put a small pillow or folded towel between the strap and your body.

For the first few days, you should avoid certain activities.

  • Do not do exercises that involve forceful reaching or stretching.
  • Do not lift anything over 10 pounds while your incision is healing. This is usually about 2 weeks.
  • While you have your port, do not play any contact sports.

Once your incision heals, you will be able to return to your normal daily activities. You can swim with the port once your skin has healed and as long as there is no needle in the port. The skin over the port only requires normal washing and bathing. You do not need a bandage if the port is not being used. When the port is used, a transparent dressing will cover the needle. It must be kept in place and dry. Most people will not know that you have a port. The port will not set off metal detectors.

After the procedure, you will see some redness and tenderness in the area.  This should go away in 24 to 48 hours.  However, contact the SDMI nurse if you notice unusual changes in the skin such as increased swelling, redness or soreness.  If you have pain, fever, chills, shortness of breath, or dizziness, contact us right away at:  702-240-1280.

Yes.  It will need to be flushed every 4 weeks.  This is done to make sure the port catheter does not become blocked. If your port becomes blocked, it will no longer work and may have to be removed. The catheter is flushed with a medicine called heparin. Heparin keeps clots from forming. Please notify your doctor if you are allergic to heparin. You will need a special type of port. Flushing your port needs to be done by a specially trained nurse. Do not allow someone to access your port who is not familiar and trained in port access. Your port will also be flushed right before the needle is removed after each treatment or infusion. If your port is properly maintained, it can stay in place for as long as your doctor feels you need it. It will be removed during a procedure that is similar to how it was put in.

Yes.  The port can be removed by the Interventional Radiology team at SDMI in a simple procedure similar to the one used to place it.  Your doctor will let you know when you are ready for your port to be removed.

Scheduling of the insertion or removal of a chest or arm port is handled by a special team who will be able to answer all your questions about the procedure and provide you with the preparation instructions.  Please call our Interventional Radiology Scheduling department at: 702.732.6020.