A chemotherapy port is a little medical device that is installed under the skin to facilitate administration of chemotherapeutic agents to one’s body through the circulatory system. In an attempt to lessen the pain and discomfort associated with repeated chemotherapy intravenous infusions, chemotherapy ports have been especially designed not only for easier chemotherapy administration; but also to facilitate drawing of blood samples, eliminating the need for repeated venipunctures.
The chemotherapy port can be implanted in the upper chest below the collar bone. It is equipped with a septum that serves as a needle insertion site for drug infusion as well as blood extraction, making it a safer and more comfortable alternative to typical needle sticks.
Chemotherapy is a treatment modality for cancer that incorporates the use of antineoplastic agents to kill and halt the production of cancer cells in the body. Chemotherapy is administered through several sessions that could take for several days or weeks. It usually comes in the form of pills taken orally or infusions administered intravenously. For intravenous chemotherapy infusions and laboratory blood tests, it required patients to undergo multiple needle sticks until chemotherapy ports were introduced. Finding patent veins used for drug infusion is without a doubt distressing to the patient; adding a new level of discomfort and inconvenience to the already- suffering patient.
A patient undergoing chemotherapy is an anguished individual; physically and emotionally. The physical symptoms associated with chemotherapy that cause major discomforts are, but not limited to: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, general body weakness, anemia and increased susceptibility to bleeding and infections. Aside from physiological suffering, emotional pain is also experienced by the cancer patient; they are often having feelings of helplessness as well as self- esteem issues.
Severe vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration and malnutrition, which in turn decreases skin turgor and increases sensitivity to tactile stimuli. This makes venipunctures difficult to carry out. The patient also has an increased susceptibility to infections since chemotherapy depresses the bone marrow function, decreasing the production of white blood cells. Abnormally low levels of white blood cells impair the body’s general ability to combat disease- causing microorganisms. Each needle stick introduced to the body then becomes a possible portal of entry for pathogenic microorganisms.
Multiple venipunctures truly bring about additional health risks as well as feelings of anxiety and apprehension. It worsens the painful treatment process and adds to the overall stress experienced by the cancer patient. Therefore, using a medical appliance that would eliminate the need for repeated use of needle sticks will definitely prove to be beneficial; both for the medical practitioner and most especially the patient.
Chemotherapy port placement is easy and convenient. To get rid of pain in the puncture site, a mild anesthesia is applied during chemotherapy port surgery. To ensure proper connection to the bloodstream, a catheter is also implanted between the vein and the port. This will facilitate drug administration for optimal absorption, as well as blood extraction for laboratory evaluations; without posing any risks for infection or physiological disruptions. A single needle insertion site is all what’s needed to perform chemotherapy port surgery. Though there are complications associated with the use of this medical appliance such as infection, thrombosis, pneumothorax, arterial injury and mechanical failure; these chemotherapy port complications can be absolutely avoided if extreme caution and strict sterile technique is practiced.
Classification of Chemotherapy Ports
Chemotherapy is a mode of treatment for cancer that utilizes chemically formulated substances primarily geared to kill cancer cells before they increase in number and cause major disruptions in the body’s normal anatomy and physiology. There are various routes through which chemotherapeutic agents can be delivered to the body. They come in the form of pills taken orally, injections applied topically or subcutaneously and infusions administered intravenously.
The intravenous route is the most often used method of chemotherapy because of its speed in terms of absorption and distribution. Chemotherapy ports make this method even more preferable, since it’s capable of protecting the veins from tear and damage. This device also enables drugs to be given simultaneously.
There are various kinds of chemotherapy ports used in clinic and hospital settings:
Implantable Venous Port
Also known as Port-a-Cath or Medi-port, implantable venous ports are typically installed in the chest or arm area, specifically a central vein for long- term use. Implantable chemotherapy ports are drum- shaped and can be made of stainless steel, titanium or plastic. This device poses fewer risks for chemotherapy port complications.
Tunneled Central Venous Catheter
Also known as Hickman or Broviac catheter, this device is surgically implanted in the chest through a central vein used for a few months to several years. This chemotherapy port has multiple openings which extend over the skin, where medications are given and blood samples are extracted.
This type of chemotherapy port involves the implantation of a plastic catheter in the arm through a large vein and is used for short term chemotherapy infusions; or continuous chemotherapy with a pump at the home setting. This device can be used for weeks to months. To confirm correct chemotherapy port placement, an imaging technique called fluoroscopy, is used.
This chemotherapy port involves insertion of a Tenckhoff catheter in the abdomen, specifically the peritoneal cavity. Used in intraperitoneal chemotherapy, this device delivers antineoplastic drugs to the abdomen, where the medications are eventually absorbed in the bloodstream.