Port-a-cath systems are small devices that are surgically placed just under the skin (usually on the front of the chest) which are connected to a tube which is placed into the main veins in the neck. A catheter connects the port to the vein; this port also has a septum (beneath the skin) that allows for easy administration of drugs and taking of blood.
They are inserted either under general or local anaesthetic with X-ray guidance and can stay in the body for several months to years. Having a port-a-cath avoids the need to have repeated intravenous lines placed to allow for blood tests, infusions, TPN or most often, chemotherapy. For medical practitioners providing treatment, the port-a-cath makes certain tasks quicker and easier; from the patient’s perspective, this device means that treatment (i.e. injections and blood tests) produce less discomfort in comparison to the typical ‘needle stick’.
The whole procedure takes around 30-45 minutes and there are no external lines or tubes at the end of the procedure. Although port-a-cath insertions are relatively straightforward, removals are comparably simpler procedures performed under local anaesthetic. Port insertion and removal procedures are performed as a day case, meaning that patients are able to go home after the procedure.