Chemo port is a vascular access device which helps in administering chemotherapy with relative ease. The port device is anchored to the upper part of the chest and the catheter is usually placed in one of the large veins.
Pros of a Chemo port:
- A needle is inserted in the port system and not the vein. This avoids puncturing of the vein and complications like thrombophlebitis, which are very common in patients where chemotherapy is given through a peripheral line. In many patients, it is difficult to insert an IV line as their veins are either very thin or deep-seated.
- Chemo ports are kept in the subcutaneous plane and they are easily felt. This results in a safer and more efficient access than an IV line.
- Chemotherapy medications can sometimes extravasate through a peripheral IV line (cannula) and cause permanent damage to the tissue and skin. Such events are very rare with a port.
- Chemo ports can be utilized for delivering chemotherapy, IV fluids, blood, medications. It can also be used for drawing labs and injecting contrasts during PET/CTA port needle can remain in situ for up to 7 days, if handled properly whereas an IV line usually needs to be changed after 3-4 days.
- Chemo ports can be kept for 2-3 years and they are quite handy in patients who require prolonged chemotherapy sessions. IV lines are temporary and need to be inserted every time a procedure is to be carried out.
Cons of a Chemo port:
- Chemo port should be flushed every four weeks to prevent it from getting blocked.
- Chemo port placement requires a minor surgical procedure; IV access does not.
- Both chemo ports and IV lines are associated with certain risks but the incidence of the complications is quite low; Infection.
- Occlusion or blockage of line.
- Dislodgement of port or line.
- Damage to the port.
In our Breast Cancer unit, we encourage patients to get a chemo port inserted for chemotherapy as it makes their life easier. Another reason for advocating chemo ports in breast cancer patients is that the ipsilateral arm (same side as the breast cancer) cannot be used for IV access, as it increases the risk of lymphedema in them.