Anytime there is a break in the skin, there is a risk for infection. When a portacath is inserted there is the risk of infection. It can be from the procedure of inserting the portacath or from an infection that is acquired during the use of it. Following proper procedures when accessing it can prevent with infections. In rare circumstances, the portacath can develop a MRSA biofilm on the plastic components. The catheter goes to the heart so it is possible for an infection to travel to the heart, which makes it important to follow required guidelines when accessing the port.

When a person needs a portacath it is because there is an existing medical condition that caused them to need the device. Often the existing health condition will cause them to be more susceptible to infection. Portacath infection risks can be managed by building up the immune system, proper hygiene, using sanitized equipment, and preventing contact with bacteria. Infections may or may not be serious.

Understanding Infection Related To The Portacath

An infection for a portacath can be a minor infection that involves some redness, it can be a serious infection like a staph infection, or it can be life threatening like a MRSA infection. A minor infection will remain on the surface, but more serious infections can travel along the catheter into the heart. The infections can occur from portacath use or portacath surgery.

Infection During Surgery

During surgery, a patient has a higher risk of acquiring an infection. With testing for colonization of bacteria and increased isolation of patients that are carriers of bacteria like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), cases of infection are decreasing; it doesn’t mean that it has been eliminated, though. Before surgery, ask the doctor what will be done to prevent an infection during and after the procedure. He can also instruct you on infection prevention when the port is accessed.

Infection During Accessing

After healing is complete after a portacath has been implanted, the port will be used to access the vein to administer medication, blood products, fluids, and nutrients. It will also be used to draw blood for testing. During access it will be important to disinfect the area around where the puncture will occur and equipment used to be sanitized. Shared equipment should be avoided when possible. It is recommended the area be covered after access to avoid bacteria from the environment from entering the body through the break in the skin from the needle. The plastic parts of a portacath can develop a biofilm if bacteria are introduced during surgery or access.

Biofilms Infections

Biofilms develop on plastic that is part of prosthetic devices. When this occurs, often the device will need to be removed to remove bacteria that are imbedded in the plastic. When this happens with portacaths, the device will need to be removed and replaced.


Portacath infections will include symptoms similar to the flu with redness and inflammation around the area that is infected. A medical professional should be monitoring any signs of infection so it can be treated promptly.