About this Procedure
What is a Chest Port
Your doctor has asked us to insert a chest port (also called a port-a-cath
) in your body. This device is a catheter (long, hollow plastic tube) connected to a plastic and metal reservoir (see the picture below).
When the catheter is placed in your chest, the catheter tip will be in a large vein in your chest. The port itself will be under the skin of your chest, below your collarbone and above your breast tissue.
You will have a thin scar 1 to 2 inches long on your skin. The port and catheter cannot be seen, but you may have a small bulge in your skin where the port is.
Chest Port (PDF)
An interventional radiologist
(a doctor or physician assistant with special training in doing this kind of procedure) will place the port in your chest.
What is the purpose of a port?
Ports are very useful for giving medicine directly into a vein over a long time. They are better than an intravenous (IV) line because:
- A port can stay in place for months or even years, if needed.
- Certain drugs cannot be given through a standard IV, but they can be given through the port.
- Ports have a lower risk of infection over time than devices like an IV that stick out through the skin.
- You will not have to have needle sticks to get blood samples or to access your blood for treatments.
These things can be done through the port.
- It will take about 10 to 14 days for you to heal after the port is placed. After that time, having the port will not restrict your activities at all.
How Does It Work?
How are ports used?
Ports are reached through your skin with a special needle. The port allows your health care team to:
- Give you drugs, such as antibiotics or chemotherapy, or blood products
- Remove blood samples for testing in the lab
How Do I Prepare?
Before Your Procedure
- If you are an outpatient, a nurse coordinator will call you the afternoon before your procedure. If your procedure is on a Monday, the nurse will call you the Friday before. The nurse will give you final instructions and answer any questions you have.
- If you do not understand English well enough to understand these instructions or the details of the procedure, tell us as soon as possible. We will arrange for a hospital interpreter to assist you. A family member or friend may not interpret for you.
- You most likely will need blood tests done within 14 days of your procedure. Sometimes, we do this when you arrive for your appointment. We will let you know if we need a blood sample before that day.
- If you take any blood-thinning medicines (such as Coumadin, Lovenox, Fragmin, or Plavix), you may need to stop taking the medicine for 3 to 9 days before the procedure. You will receive instructions about this.
- If you have diabetes and take insulin or metformin (Glucophage), you will receive instructions about holding or adjusting your dose for the day your port is placed.
Day Before Your Procedure
To prepare for sedation, follow these instructions closely:
- The day before your procedure, you may eat as usual.
- Starting 6 hours before your procedure, you may only have clear liquids (liquid you can see through such as water, Sprite, cranberry juice, or weak tea).
- Starting 2 hours before your procedure:
- Take nothing at all by mouth.
- If you must take medicines, take them with only a sip of water.
- Do not take vitamins or other supplements. They can upset an empty stomach.
- You must have a responsible adult drive you home and stay with you the rest of the day. You may NOT drive yourself home or take a bus, taxi, or shuttle.
On the Day of Your Procedure
- Take all of your other usual medicines on the day of the procedure. Do not skip them unless your doctor or nurse tells you to.
- Bring a list of all the medicines you take with you.
- Please plan to spend most of the day in the hospital. If there is a delay in getting your procedure started, it is usually because we need to treat other people with unexpected and urgent problems. Thank you for your patience if this occurs.
- Unless you are told otherwise:
- If you are a patient at University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC), check in at Admitting on the 3rd (main) floor of the hospital. Admitting is to the right and behind the Information Desk in the lobby.
- If you are a patient at Harborview Medical Center (HMC), check in at the Ambulatory Procedure Area (APA) on the 8th floor of the Maleng Building.
- A medical assistant will give you a hospital gown to put on and a bag for your belongings. You may use the restroom at that time.
- A staff member will take you to a pre-procedure area. There, a nurse will do a health assessment. Your family or friend can be with you there.
- An IV line will be started. You will be given fluids and medicines through the IV. One medicine you will get is an antibiotic. This will lower your risk of infection.
- A radiology doctor or physician assistant will talk with you about the procedure and ask you to sign a consent form if that has not already been done. You will be able to ask questions at that time.
What Can I Expect?
- The nurse will take you to the radiology suite. This nurse will be with you for the entire procedure.
- You will lie on a flat table that allows the doctor to see into your body with X-rays.
- Wires will be placed on your body to help us monitor your heart rate.
- You will have a cuff around your arm. It will inflate from time to time to check your blood pressure.
- We usually place the port on the right side of the chest. If we should avoid this side (such as having had a mastectomy, lymph node dissection, radiation therapy, wound, or infection), be sure to tell us.
- A radiology technologist will clean your skin around your neck and chest with a special soap. Tell this person if you have any allergies. The technologist may need to shave some hair in the area where the doctor will be working.
- The entire medical team will ask you to confirm your name and will tell you what we plan to do. This is for your safety.
- Then, your nurse will give you medicine to make you feel drowsy and relaxed before we begin.
- If needed, an interpreter will be in the room or will be able to talk with you and hear you through an intercom.
- When the port is placed, you will be given a sedative medicine (similar to Valium and morphine) through your IV. This medicine will make you sleepy, help you relax, and lessen your discomfort. You will stay awake. This is called conscious sedation. You will still be sleepy for a while after the procedure.
- For some people, using conscious sedation is not safe. If this is true for you, you will need anesthesia (medicine to make you sleep during the procedure).
Let us know right away if you:
- Have needed anesthesia for basic procedures in the past
- Have sleep apnea or chronic breathing problems (you might use a CPAP or BiPAP device while sleeping)
- Use high doses of narcotic painkiller
- Have severe heart, lung, or kidney disease
- Cannot lie flat for about 1 hour because of back or breathing problems
- Have a hard time lying still during medical procedures
- Weigh more than 300 pounds (136 kilograms)
As with all medical procedures, there are some risks. The most common problems after placing a port are:
- Bleeding: Bleeding is usually minor and does not last long.
- Infection right after the port is placed: There is a small risk of infection right after the port is placed. You will get an IV antibiotic before your procedure to lower this risk.
- Infection more than 1 week after the port is placed: This infection is more common. It is not related to the port placement procedure.
- The port may not work correctly.
There are other less common risks. Your doctor will talk with you about these risks before your procedure. Please make sure to ask any questions you have, so that you know what to expect.
After the Procedure
- We will watch you closely for a short time in the Radiology department.
- Then you will go to a recovery area for about 1 to 2 hours to let the sedation wear off. You will be able to eat and drink, and your family may visit you.
- When you are fully awake and are able to eat, use the restroom, and walk, you will be able to go home.
- Complications are rare. If they occur, we may need to keep you in the hospital so that we can keep watching you or treat you.
- Before you leave the hospital, your nurse will tell you what activities you can do, how to take care of your incision, and other important instructions.
When You Get Home
- Relax at home for the rest of the day. Make sure you have a family member, friend, or caregiver to help you. You may feel sleepy or have some short-term memory loss.
- For 24 hours, do not:
- Drive a car or use machinery
- Drink alcohol
- Make important personal decisions or sign legal documents
- Be responsible for the care of another person
- Do not lift anything heavier than 5 to 10 pounds for 3 days.
- Do not shower or bathe until your dressing has been changed for the first time, usually 2 to 3 days after your procedure. If water gets on your incision, it will not heal as well. It may also become infected.
- Let the white tapes (Steri-Strips) fall off on their own. This will take a week or more.
- Do not scrub the glue that may cover your incision.
- If you must shower before your teaching session, cover your bandages with plastic wrap and tape the edges of the plastic to keep your bandages dry. Try to keep the water from hitting your bandages. Gently pat-dry.
- Your stitches will dissolve. They do not need to be removed.
- You may have some mild bruising, swelling, or tenderness over your chest and neck for 3 to 5 days. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) should ease any pain you have.
- Resume taking your usual medicines as soon as you start to eat. Take only the medicines that your doctors prescribed or approved.
Will I be able to do my usual activities?
For about 1 week after your port is placed:
- Avoid strenuous activities that put pressure on or stretch your neck and chest areas.
- Do not get the area wet
After 1 week, you may resume all of your usual activities.
Can the port be removed?
Yes. We will remove the port:
- When you no longer need it.
- If the catheter does not work right, cannot be fixed easily, and needs to be replaced. This happens very rarely.
- If you get a serious infection at the port site, catheter site, or in your bloodstream.
When to Call
Call us right away
if you have:
- Severe bleeding or any bleeding that does not stop after you have applied gentle pressure for about 15 minutes
- Drainage from your incision
- Fever higher than 101°F (38.3°C) or chills
- Shortness of breath that is getting worse
- New chest pain
Who to Call
University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) Patients
Interventional Radiology nurse coordinator ...........206-598-6897
Procedure Scheduling ...........................................206-598-6209
After hours (between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m.), and on weekends and holidays
Ask for the Interventional Radiology Fellow on call 206-598-6190
Harborview Medical Center (HMC) Patients
Patient Care Coordinators .................................206-744-0112 or 206-744-0113
After hours (between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m.), and on weekends and holidays
Ask for the Interventional Radiology Fellow on call 206-744-0147
If You Have an Emergency
Go directly to the nearest Emergency Room or call 9-1-1. Do not wait to contact one of our staff.