A single course of chemotherapy can last anywhere between three and six months. Typically, the process can cause some discomfort to the patient, but it should not be painful. What makes this possible is an implantable vein-access device called the port catheter.

It is a small tool that attaches itself securely to an individual’s vein. Nursing providers can use this device to draw the patient’s blood and deliver chemotherapy drugs directly into the bloodstream. 

One major reason why these are used in cancer treatment is that they eliminate the need for needle sticks.

When implanted properly, it can stay in place for months (sometimes even years). However, there can be complications involved, which means proper precautionary measures must be taken. 

In this article, we will discuss the different types used in chemotherapy, their benefits and risks, along with the follow-up instructions for using them.

Types of Catheter Ports Used in Cancer Treatment

A wide array of catheter ports are available for chemotherapy (and most work in similar ways). However, choosing the right type will depend upon the following factors –

  • The duration of the cancer treatment
  • The type of treatment
  • The ease with which it may be used and cared for
  • The cost of insertion

Based on the aforementioned factors, the following types of are generally used –

  • IV catheter – This is primarily used for treatments that require vein access. Besides chemotherapy, other drugs (for instance – those for nausea) can be administered through this passageway.

Do You Know?:
As of 2024, an estimated 611,720 people in the United States will die from cancer. However, it corresponds to approximately 1680 deaths per day.

  • Peripherally inserted central catheter – This is typically a pick line inserted into a vein near the elbow. An anesthetic is needed to implant this passageway.
  • Hickman catheter or venous central line catheter – A care provider inserts this in a large vein just below the collarbone. A local anesthetic or conscious sedation is required for this as well.
  • Implantable port – A radiologist or surgeon implants this medical device (completely) under the skin of the upper arm or chest.

Benefits of Using Catheter Ports

Benefits of Using Catheter Ports

When implanted well, this medical device can stay in place for weeks or months. This enables the nursing staff to –

  • Administer multiple blood transfusions without the need to implant the device each time.
  • Minimize the risk of any drug leakage.
the intravenous Catheters market size

In the year 2023, the intravenous Catheters market size was valued at USD 9.4 billion. And, between 2024 and 2032, it is expected to grow a CAGR of 7.8%.

  • Reduce the number of times vein access is required to implant a needle stick. This is the most suitable option for those who need multiple needle sticks, have damaged veins, or fear needles in general.
  • Provide chemotherapy treatment at home instead of a hospital or clinic. All that the patient needs to do is carry around a small pump with the drugs used for administration. With that, it’s possible to receive a continuous infusion.
  • Prevent bruising or bleeding, which is especially a threat in the case of patients with a low platelet count.
  • Administer more than one treatment drug with the help of a double passageway.

Risks of Catheter Ports during Chemotherapy

Risks of Catheter Ports during Chemotherapy

Just like catheter passageways have several benefits for the sufferer and the aid provider, there are complications or risks involved. In some cases, the device itself may be defective whilst in others, the healthcare team’s neglect can lead to blockages, infection, or blood clots.

Some of its less common complications include catheter migration as well as the forming of knots/twists under the skin. 

One tragic example of its implantable complications is the injuries caused by the Bard Power Port device.

Manufactured by Bard Access Systems Inc., the device comes with a plastic and titanium housing. 

There is a polyurethane material used by the name of ChronoFlex AL – a mix of barium sulfate and polyurethane.

According to TorHoerman Law, the device has received much criticism for complications like device fracture and migration, blood clots, infections, thrombosis, embolism, and even death in some cases. 

It is believed that the device manufacturer was aware of these risks but failed to warn.

As a result, sufferers and medical service providers have filed product liability lawsuits against Bard Access Systems Inc. 

It is estimated that the average Bard Power Port lawsuit settlement amount would range between $10,000 and $250,000. Individual case payouts would depend upon the patient’s age, injuries suffered, etc.

Fast Fact:
According to a study in the past, it was seen that 41.6% of men had an increased likelihood of being diagnosed with an invasive cancer compared with 39.6% of women.

In light of the risks involved, a part of chemotherapy treatment deals with relieving side effects. This is known as palliative care. 

The person receiving medical treatment must report any side effects or problems (no matter how minor) to their healthcare unit. The sooner the complications are discovered, the easier it will be to manage them.

Care Instructions to Keep in Mind

As mentioned earlier, the other half of its complications stem from improper treatment (on the part of the professional medical staff or the patient). It is of utmost importance that the skin just outside the catheter area is given good care. 

It is this part that is vulnerable to clots and infections.

Let’s look at some vital healing instructions for the healthcare group and the patient –

  • The entire team must take their time to properly implant it and monitor its performance.
  • The affected person must receive clear instructions from the medical staff on how to take care of it on their own.
  • The tip of this medical device (mainly when the cap is off) must never be touched.
  • Extra precautions must be taken to prevent any breaks or cuts in the port catheter. 
  • The healthcare staff/sufferer must only touch it even after thoroughly washing hands.
  • The catheter must never be allowed to go underwater. 
  • The external area (where the catheter port is inserted) must be cleaned regularly, and the bandage should be changed.

As we close, let’s mention some additional noteworthy tips on its usage. Sometimes, the passageway is not used as frequently. In such cases, the healthcare unit needs to flush it to avoid blockages.

The person being treated must be aware of any abnormal signs that point toward vein damage or catheter malfunctioning. 

If any fluids leak out, the person undergoing treatment develops a fever, there is a lot of bleeding, or the area around the puncture site becomes red or swollen, the healthcare team must be notified immediately.