Getting a portacath can be scary even though the risk of complications is low. A medical professional will want a patient to have a port implanted to aid in treatment, but commonly the benefits outweigh the risks of the procedure and the use of the device. Like with any medical procedure there will be risks, the most common is discomfort and infection. These risks increase because there is an existing medical condition that created the need for the central venous access device (CVAD) to be implanted in the first place. The existing medical condition can cause a weakened immune system, which increases the risk of infection.

The Risks During a CVAD Implant

The portacath is inserted using a local anesthetic and sedation. There can be some discomfort and breakthrough pain during the insertion, but it is not common. Complication can occur from the anesthetic, sedation, and the procedure. This is unusual though and the risks of a portacath insertion are less than the risks of treatment without the port. Some of the risks during insertion of the CVAD implant include the following:

  • Blood vessel injury
  • Wound infection
  • MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
  • Bruising
  • Haematoma formation
  • Allergic reaction

Risks were more common before modern imaging. With modern imaging the interventional radiologist who performs the procedure can clearly see everything that is being done in real time. Proper aftercare of the portacath will reduce risks of infection and other complications.

Managing Risks of a Portacath After Insertion

The most common risk of having a port is getting an infection. This can occur during insertion, while healing, and during accessing the port. Following proper procedures for sanitizing will prevent infections from occurring during the surgery. Covering the port and good hygiene will reduce the risks of infections agerwards. Risks need to managed for successful use of the central venous access device. In addition to infection, some of the risks that will need to be managed include the following:

  • Thrombosis-blood clots can permanently block the device; regular flushing of the port can prevent that from occurring. The frequency will depend on its use.
  • Mechanical failure-this is really rare, when it does occur it may be from severe trauma to the body, like in a car accident.
  • Age-for a port that is implanted for long term use on a child, the growth will need to monitored so that a larger port replaces one that is outgrown. This prevents displacement of the device.
  • Pheumothorax-accumulation of air that can interfere with breathing, Proper insertion will prevent this risk.
  • Arterial injury-if the artery is punctured the port may need to be placed in a new site. Using modern imagery and proper insertion will prevent this risk.

Preventing infections and other complications, along with managing risks will help prevent the device from needing to be removed or replaced. In the case of a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, managing the risk of infection will prevent this life threatening condition.