Seven years ago I had a portacath fitted.
I want to share some information based on my own experience. This will hopefully help you make the right decisions, if you’re thinking about having this done.
I decided I wanted a portacath, as it was getting increasingly stressful every time I had a cannula in my hand. The veins in my arm were inaccessible due to the chemo 7 years earlier. I didn’t want to continue using those veins and this was the best solution, especially as I can still do physical exercise with it.
On the day it was fitted, I was prepped, assessed and a mark was put onto my neck. The portacath would be placed into the right hand side. An ultrasound had been done the previous day to check the vein was good.
I believe the left side can also be used, BUT the flow can be problematic.
I was led to the Radiography room and lay on a bed. The nurse scrubbed up and prepped the instruments ready for the minor op.
I had to lie still and look to the left side whilst I had local anasthetic and the nurse numbed the area with approximately 6 injections into my chest and my neck.
She then made an incision for a pocket to place the portacath into.
Another incision was made further up my neck, where the tube would go.
The tube was fed down towards my heart. To make sure that it was in the right place she took an x-ray image of where it was. It’s cut to the right length whilst inserted, then stitched into place so it doesn’t move.
Butterfly stitches are then placed over the device area.
It was a bit of a weird feeling pushing and pressing and pulling thinking this device would be accessing my jugular vein.
When they finished, a pad was put over it for protection.
It felt strange and I could feel the metal lump under the skin. I didn’t want to move my neck and felt frightened when moving my head, but was told to carry on as normal.
I’d talked to friends who’d had this done and they said after a while they didn’t feel it was there, they were right, as I don’t really feel it now either.
It’s been much easier since having it fitted, and massively reduced the time it takes to access to a vein. Many friends have them too, so please don’t be put off or scared.
I’ve carried on with life much the same with the ability to exercise, and you can also swim as the device is under the skin. No need for cleaning and flushing like a PICC or Hickman and there’s less risk of infection.
The only thing I’d say is be sure where you want it – placement is everything. As you can see below mine is quite high up on my chest near my clavicle and because I have literally no breast tissue there, the port is very visible.
If you do have breast tissue, it may be unnoticeable so check with your team before you go-ahead.
If was to wear a top that goes straight across my chest, low cut top or something that has no straps then the port is above the clothing line, so that’s something to think about. Mine is visible, so you may want to ask if they can place it further below that visible line.
My midline scar is my sternotomy but here is where my port is.
As I said though, it saves time and stress, and all scans I have done can be done through the port (check it is compatible) when you need to have contrast. It’s easy to access with one stab and easy removal as well. Sometimes there may be a small clot from last time you had it accessed, but this usually gets sorted with a one syringe saline flush.
If you’re driving and it’s on the right hand side, it can interfere with your seat belt, although you can buy a foam pad to help with comfort.
I had problems with across shoulder bags, so be careful as sometimes the pressure can be uncomfortable or if it’s prominent like mine it catches a little but I do put any bag across the opposite shoulder.
These are just things to think about which I wish someone would have told me. I think it’s important for people to know about these issues before you have it done.
See below some pictures of other people that have it placed under their arm or some even have it on their back, so again, check WHERE they are talking about placing it and ask what your options are.
I hope this helps you to decide and ask the right questions.
This is a man with the port under his arm
This port cannot be seen as much as this person has more breast/chest tissue to hide it.
This port is under her arm