Information on port systems for patients
Carry on with your life while undergoing gentle therapy
Every year thousands of patients are treated using an implantable port system, or port, through which they receive intravenous medicines and fluids over a longer period of time as part of their treatment. A port has a number of advantages for you as a patient. It means there is no longer a need for your blood vessels to be punctured again with another needle every time you are given medications or fluids. And it means you can go back to your own surroundings and live your life with fewer limitations.
This brochure is a brief introduction to the port system. To find out more please talk to your doctor or nursing staff.
The port principle
A port is a long-term catheter system. It consists of a reservoir (or port chamber) – a small container made of plastic or metal sealed with a stable silicone membrane – and a thin tube, the port catheter. This catheter is inserted into a blood vessel when the port is implanted and can then be used to introduce medicines and fluids directly into the blood circulation.
The port is placed entirely beneath the skin and can easily be located from outside by touch. The silicone membrane can be penetrated as necessary using a Huber needle, whose tip is specially designed to prevent damage to the membrane. The system makes use of special materials and can therefore remain in the body for a long period of therapy without causing problems.
Implanting the port system
The port system is usually implanted in a short out-patient operation that is carried out under local anaesthetic, carried out under local anaesthesia or general anaesthesia, depending on patients and doctors preference. Patients can usually leave the hospital again on the same day. The port can be used straight away if necessary. Otherwise, though, it is recommended to wait with medications until the swelling has gone down. As soon as the wound has healed and the swelling has subsided you can return to all your normal everyday activities. Your doctor will give you the necessary information.
During the operation your doctor inserts the catheter into a selected blood vessel and pushes it along inside this vessel until it reaches the heart. The catheter is then connected to the reservoir which is placed under the skin near the collar bone. Finally the skin is closed again and a dressing is applied to protect the wound for the first few days after the operation.
Uses of a port system
The port can be used for various different purposes.
The medication is given in a single injection and the needle is then removed from the port straight away.
The Huber needle can remain in the port for up to seven days and can thus be used to give medications and fluids over a longer period.
Blood samples can be taken through the port for use in further tests.
A special feature of the silicone membrane is that it remains intact and makes a tight seal again after each puncture. The port must be flushed with saline solution after every procedure to guarantee patency and prevent complications.
How to handle your port
The port catheter allows you to return to your usual daily activities, take exercise and shower again as soon as possible. You should nevertheless discuss this with your doctor. You should also ask your doctor’s advice if you notice changes in the skin over the port or if you experience fever, pain, dizziness or shortness of breath.
The Huber needle can be used to penetrate the port whenever this is necessary. The system needs to be flushed regularly to keep it working reliably for as long as possible. Flushing should be carried out after administering medications and fluids and also every four weeks during periods without therapy.
Take precautions - hygiene for successful therapy
It is crucial for the success of your therapy that your doctor and nursing staff adhere carefully to hygiene procedures. You should also be aware of these rules at all times. They state that puncture should always be carried out under sterile conditions to prevent the area around the port from becoming infected.
- Doctors and nurses must wash and disinfect their hands before using the Huber needle.
- They must wear gloves.
- The skin over the port must be cleaned with disinfectant for at least one minute.
Provided the requirements for cleanliness, diligence and competence are fulfilled, a port system will give you maximal flexibility and freedom from symptoms while keeping you supplied with medications and fluids. To maintain and restore your quality of life.
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