Subcutaneous port

Subcutaneous port

A port-a-cath/powerport, known as a port, is a small chamber, about the size of a 20 cent coin. It has a silicone centre that can be pricked with a special needle many times. It has a thin flexible silicone tube attached.

Key points to remember

  • a port-a-cath/powerport, known as a port, is a small chamber, about the size of a 20 cent coin
  • it has a silicone centre that can be pricked with a special needle many times
  • the port and the line are completely implanted under the skin

What is a subcutaneous port?

This page is part of a whole section about childhood cancer.

A port-a-cath/powerport, known as a port, is a small chamber, about the size of a 20 cent coin, with a silicone centre that can be pricked with a special needle many times. It has a thin flexible silicone tube attached. A doctor or nurse will implant the port and the line under your child’s skin. When in place, the port may be visible as a small lump under the surface of the skin.

Where does the port go?

Inside the body, the catheter lies under the skin of the chest. It leads from the port chamber to a vein near the neck, (there will be a small incision on the neck), then to a central vein leading to the heart. The port chamber lies under the skin of the chest and a doctor or nurse will stitch (suture) it closed. The position of the port chamber can vary.

What about safety and security?

Because the port is completely under the skin and does not have an external part there is a low risk to its safety and security.

What about caring for the catheter?

The skin wound for a port does not need a dressing. Between treatments or every 4 weeks, a doctor or nurse will flush the port with sterile saline and heparin solution. This is to keep the catheter clear of blockages.

Can my child with a port swim and play sport?

Yes, your child can swim in some situations as long as the port does not have a needle in place. Your child should avoid some contact sports because of the danger of a knock to the port which could be painful or could cause damage. Talk about this with your child's doctor. See Frequently asked questions about care at home.

Can my child shower and bath?

Yes, as long as the port is not accessed, because the port and catheter are fully implanted inside the body.

How long can a port stay in place?

For as long as it is needed for treatment. This may be from months to years. A doctor or nurse will remove it a few months after your child finishes treatment.

How is the port used?

When a nurse needs to put something into the port, they will insert a special needle through the skin into the port chamber. A nurse may apply an anaesthetic cream or gel on the skin first to numb the skin. See the topical analgesia section in Treatment of pain in childhood cancer.

When do doctors remove the port?

A few months after the end of treatment, a doctor will remove the port in the operating theatre under a general anaesthetic. See Surgery for childhood cancer: Does surgery hurt?

Your child can usually go home the same day. There will be small scars on the chest and on the neck. They will not disappear completely but will fade with time.

All the information in the Childhood cancer section of this website has been written by health professionals who work in the field of paediatric oncology. They have been reviewed by the members of the National Child Cancer Network (NZ). Medical information is authorised by the National Child Cancer Network Clinical Leader.

This page last reviewed 23 April 2013.
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