Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Port for Weary Veins

Port of Pireaus, Greece
When I think of a Port, I first imagine a place near land for boats to find shelter from rough seas or load and off-load goods and passengers.  

The second thing I imagine is a glass filled with a dark, heavy, rich dessert wine made in Portugal.

This coming Wednesday, I will experience another kind of port - up close and personal. I'm having a port installed in my chest. But it is for loading something other than libations.

When I went in for my second transfusion of Red Blood Cells (RBCs), the nurses told me it was time to get a port installed. My good veins for IVs are shot due to phlebotomies and Remicade infusions over the last few years. There is scar tissue and some veins have flattened out. Other veins are covered by lipomas (benign fatty tumors) on my arms and legs (fat isn't limited to cellulite, my friends!).  

The port installation is an out-patient procedure with local anesthetic. I do hope they will give me something to calm my nerves, because watching people run tubing through my chest will trigger some of my natural anxiety.

IV Educational Moment:
In preparing for this, I've learned that there are three types of intra-venous (IV) catheter mechanisms: Ports, PICCS, and Lines. Each is used for different medical purposes.

Ports:  Ports are funky-looking things that are implanted just below the skin's surface on the upper chest. A tube connected to the port is fed through a central vein towards the heart. Ports can stay in ones body for years if necessary. Ports are good for chemotherapy, transfusions, and delivering medication and other necessities. A special needle is required to connect to the port. Ports have lower infection risk because there are fewer points of entry to the body than the tubes from PICCs and Lines.

How Does A Port Work?

PICCs:   Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter 
I had one of these when I had the whopper hospitalization in 2007. They can draw blood, give medication and liquid nutrition without sticking me every time. A purple tube went from my right arm into a vein that led to my heart. I was unconscious when it was installed, but I do remember that when the nurse pulled it out it was no big deal.
PICC lines are not used for chemotherapy. 

There are 2 types of lines, tunneled and not tunneled. Tunneled catheters / lines are used for chemo, blood draws, delivery of nutrition, medication, etc. They are not for long term use.

An on-line friend shared this brief summary of these 3 types of IV catheter approaches.

I'll post a photo or two of Marina's Port (sounds nautical, doesn't it?!) on Thursday or Friday.

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