A portacath is a device that medical professionals use to administer chemotherapy drugs intravenously. Because doctors normally insert a portacath under a patient’s skin on a vein close to the heart, most patients probably ask; does it hurt to use a portacath? The simple answer to this question is no.
Radiologists place portacaths on large veins such as the jugular and the brachial vein. Therefore, the chances of blood flow blockage and inflammation of blood vessels is very low. However, it is important to note that if you do not care for the insertion point of the portacath properly, it may develop an infection and consequently become painful.
With that in mind, here are some tips you can use to care for a portacath at home.
- Always keep the insertion point covered: It is your responsibility to ensure the area where the portacath needle enters the skin is always covered and dry. After every treatment session, ensure that you replace the dressing covering the entry point of the portacath especially if it is wet. This will ensure that you do not get a bacterial infection.
- Keep the portacath site clean: Ensure you always wash your hands thoroughly before you handle the portacath. In addition, you should clean the skin around the portacath entry point regularly using a sanitizer.
- When accessing the portacath, keep the IV tubing clamped. This will ensure that air does not enter your bloodstream since this could lead blood clots and blockage that can be painful.
- Always keep the ends (lumens) of the portacath capped. These lumens are important since they facilitate the process of administering medicine and fluids. Once this process is complete, cap the lumens to avoid the entry of germs into the portacath.
- Do not use unsterilized objects to touch the portacath insertion site.
- Once a radiologist inserts the portacath, you may experience some soreness. However, you should contact your doctor immediately if the following symptoms persist for more than two days:
- Any unusual skin changes
If you want to avoid pain while using a portacath, observe the following:
- Do not engage in any strenuous physical activities for at least 7 days after the placement/insertion of a portacath.
- Ensure you keep your portacath clean by flushing/cleaning it with a saline solution after every treatment to avoid infections.
Under normal circumstances, it should not hurt to use a portacath. If you observe proper hygiene while handling a portacath, you are more likely to enjoy a safe and effective treatment method.