An implanted port is a device that's placed, in most cases, under the skin of your chest below your collarbone. It's made of plastic, stainless steel, or titanium. The port is about the size of a quarter, but thicker. A thin, flexible tube called a catheter runs from the port under your skin into a large vein. A membrane (septum) similar to a pencil eraser is in the center of the port.
A nurse uses a needle to put chemotherapy or other medicine and fluids through the septum into a blood vessel. The port may be used to draw blood for tests only if another vein, such as in the hand or arm, can't be used. An implanted port can be used for months. A special needle (called a Huber needle) may stay in the port for a short time. The port needs regular care to make sure that it doesn't get blocked.
Tell your doctor if you take aspirin or some other blood thinner. These medicines can increase the chance of bleeding inside your body.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- You will probably need to take 1 day off from work and will be able return to normal activities shortly after. This depends on the type of work you do, why you have the port, and how you feel.
- You probably will be able to bathe and swim. But you may need to avoid some activities if a Huber needle is left in the port. Talk to your doctor about any limits on your activity.
- Some clothes may rub the skin over the port. Do not wear a bra or suspenders that irritate your skin near the port.
- You will get a medical alert card with information about your port. Carry this with you. It will tell health care workers you have a port in case you need emergency care.
- Your port will need regular flushing to keep it open. A nurse or other health professional will do this for you.
When should you call for help?
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness near the port.
- Red streaks leading from the port.
- Pus draining from the port.
- A fever.
- You have pain or swelling in your neck or arm.
- You have trouble breathing.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- You have any problems with your port.
Where can you learn more?
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