Subcutaneous Port

Subcutaneous Port

A port-a-cath or 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.

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Key points to remember about subcutaneous ports

  • a port-a-cath or 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?

A port-a-cath or 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, you may be able to see the port as a small lump under the surface of the skin.

You may also be interested in reading the overview page about central venous catheters

Where in the body 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, then to a central vein leading to the heart. There will be a small incision on the neck. The port chamber lies under the skin of the chest and a doctor or nurse will stitch it closed. The position of the port chamber can vary.

What about safety and security for my child's port?

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.

How do I care for my child's port?

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.

Can my child with a port 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 my child's 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 do the healthcare team use the port?

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.

When do doctors remove my child's port?

A few months after the end of treatment, a doctor will remove the port in the operating theatre under a general anaesthetic.

Find out about having a general anaesthetic

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.

Read more about childhood cancer

Acknowledgements

All the pages in the childhood cancer section of this website have 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 clinical leader of the National Child Cancer Network.

This page last reviewed 10 June 2021.