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, with a silicone centre that can be pricked with a special needle many times. It has a thin flexible silicone tube attached. The port and the line are completely implanted under the skin. 

What is a subcutaneous port?

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. The port and the line are completely implanted under the skin. When in place, the port may be visible as a small lump under the surface of the skin.

Where is the port positioned?

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 the skin is stitched (sutured) 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 less risk to its safety and security.

What about catheter care?

The skin wound for a port does not need a dressing. Between treatments or every four weeks the port is flushed 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. Some sports should be avoided because of the danger of a knock to the port which could be painful or could cause damage (discuss with your child's doctor first).

See:

Can my child shower and bath?

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

How long can a port stay in place?

For as long as it is required for treatment. This may be from some months to some years. It is left in place for a few months after treatment is completed.

How is the port used?

When something is to be put into the port, the nurse at the hospital will insert a special needle through the skin into the port chamber. An anaesthetic cream or gel can be put on the skin first to numb the skin. This is explained in:

What can you do?

  • read topical analgesia in Treatment of pain in childhood cancer
  • talk to your child about the anaesthetic cream and dressing that can be applied to their skin before a treatment
  • discuss the use of anaesthetic cream with your child's nurse

When is the port removed?

A few months after the end of treatment, the port will be removed in the operating theatre under a general anaesthetic. There is information about this in:

Your child will usually be discharged 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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