Port-a-caths, or implantable ports, are saviors for patients requiring long-term intravenous (IV) treatments like intravenous medications, chemotherapy, or blood transfusions. These medical devices are placed under the skin for easy access to veins. In this way, they eliminate the need to prick and prove every time a patient requires IV medication or transfusion.
The use of implantable ports is widespread in the US, considering the increase in chronic diseases and a growing demand for minimally invasive procedures in the country. The market size of these devices was a massive $ 1,023.41 million in 2022 and is projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.2% by 2032.
Healthcare providers recommend it to ensure comfort and convenience for patients. At the same time, the safe usage of implantable ports entails proper care and maintenance. As a patient, you need to follow some guidelines to ensure your safety and the device’s longevity.
This article provides a comprehensive overview of the potential risks and safety and care guidelines to address them.
Understanding the Risks of Implantable Ports
A port-a-cath consists of a plastic port connected to a silicone catheter. It is implanted under the skin in the upper chest or arm to provide venous access with minimal discomfort and interference with daily activities. However, some risks are associated with the device. These include minor risks such as local infections and clots to major ones like dislocation and migration.
A recent study of port-a-cath complications in patients stated that 3% of patients experienced catheter dislocation, which included 1.8% fractures and 1.2% tip displacements. Although the numbers seem small, the sheer gravity of these complications is a reason to worry. Deep vein thrombosis, vein damage, and pulmonary embolism are a few other potential complications.
The Bard PowerPort lawsuit underscores the level of risk patients face with the device. While the brand claims that its products are capable of withstanding higher injection pressure than a regular port, things are different in reality. Certain Bard devices are prone to defects, leading to serious injuries and severe infection in patients.
TorHoerman Law notes that the device even faced an FDA recall in March 2020. Although the recall was terminated in 2022, many patients have suffered due to the faulty device. Fortunately, patients can claim compensation from the manufacturer. The lawsuit is ongoing, with 50 cases consolidated in the Bard PowerPort MDL.
Safety and Care Guidelines to Minimize the Risks
Although patients can skip Bard products, they still need to do their bit to minimize the risks of implantable ports. Here are a few steps to address the risks and ensure the safety and longevity of the device:
Rely on Trained Professionals
A port-a-cath is a complex medical device requiring proper technique and precision while setting up and accessing. The Huber needle for port access has to be inserted at the correct angle to avoid damage to the port septum. Only a trained healthcare professional, such as a nurse or physician, should access the port. Besides managing proper access, they ensure sterility and hygiene to curb infection.
Ensure Proper Cleaning and Maintenance
Proper cleaning and maintenance is another step to maximize the safety and minimize the risk of an implantable port. Regular flushing of the device with heparinized saline solution is recommended to prevent blood clots and maintain catheter patency. Healthcare providers determine the ideal flushing schedule according to the treatment plan.
Personal Hygiene and Care
As a patient, you can do your bit to reduce the risk of infections by maintaining good personal hygiene. Keep the site clean and dry and use only mild soap and water to wash it. Harsh chemicals and lotions can cause skin irritation. Watch out for signs such as swelling, redness, or discharge, and report them to your healthcare provider immediately.
Get Regular Check-ups
Besides keeping an eye on unusual symptoms, you must schedule regular check-ups with your healthcare providers to monitor the device. The provider will check the port site and assess your overall health. They will look for complications, such as catheter blockage or potential dislodgement, and address them promptly.
An implantable port can go beyond easing transfusion and treatment for patients. It can help you resume normal physical activities, provided you are ready to take a few precautions. Follow these safety and care guidelines to keep it intact. Also, avoid activities like heavy lifting or contact sports as they may cause trauma to the port area and lead to complications.
Most importantly, choose a reliable product and a healthcare provider you trust to handle the device safely. With these proactive measures, you can ensure your safety and the device’s effectiveness throughout the treatment process.