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Implanted Port: What to Expect at Home

Your Recovery

You have had a procedure to implant a port. You may hear it called an implanted venous access device (IVAD), a port-a-cath, or a central line. The port looks like a small bump under your skin. A thin, flexible tube called a catheter runs under the skin from the port into a large vein.

You may have the port for weeks, months, or longer. You will be able to get medicine, blood, nutrients, or other fluids with more comfort. The port can be used right away.

You will probably have some discomfort and bruising at the port site. This will go away in a few days.

You may have strips of tape on the cut (incision) the doctor made, or the cut may have been closed with glue. It may be covered with a small bandage.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to feel better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Avoid arm and upper body movements that may pull on the incision for the first week. These movements include heavy weight lifting (no more than 4.5 kg or 10 lbs.) and vigorous use of your arms. Do not do exercises with your arms above your shoulders or behind your back for 1 week.
  • You will probably need to take 1 day off from work and will be able to return to normal activities shortly after. This depends on the type of work you do, why you have the catheter, and how you feel.
  • Once your incision is fully healed, you probably will be able to take baths and swim. But you may need to avoid some activities if a Huber needle is left in the port. Talk to your doctor about any limits on your activity.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again. When the port has a Huber needle left in, be careful when you pull your seat belt across your chest so it doesn't pull out or move the needle. It's okay if the seat belt lays over the device.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, ask your doctor if and when to start taking it again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.

Incision care

  • You may have a dressing over the cut (incision) the doctor made. A dressing helps the incision heal and protects it.
  • Keep the first dressing in place until the morning after your procedure, then change the dressing as directed. If you got instructions about how to change the dressing at home, follow those instructions carefully. Your doctor may arrange for home care or an outpatient clinic to do your dressing changes.
  • It is very important to keep this site clean and dry.
    • If you have strips of tape on the incision, leave the tape on for 1 week or until it falls off.
    • If you have stitches, your doctor will arrange for them to be removed.
  • To help prevent infections, take a shower instead of a bath. You may shower 24 to 48 hours after the procedure, if your doctor says it's okay. Cover the procedure site with waterproof material, such as plastic wrap, so it doesn't get wet. Do not scrub the procedure site. Pat the site dry.
  • Avoid baths, hot tubs, and swimming until the procedure site no longer has a scab and is completely healed. Do not use any creams, lotions, or ointments on the procedure site, unless your healthcare provider tells you to.
  • Flush the device only if your doctor tells you to do so.

Other instructions

  • Always carry the medical alert card that your doctor gives you. It contains information about your port that healthcare providers need to give you certain medicines. It will also tell health care workers that you have a port in case you need emergency care.
  • When you get dressed, be careful not to rub the port. Do not wear clothing that may irritate your skin near the port.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness near the port.
    • Red streaks leading from the port.
    • Pus draining from the port.
    • A fever.
  • You have pain or swelling in your neck or arm.
  • You have trouble breathing or chest pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have any problems with your port.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter M256 in the search box to learn more about "Implanted Port: What to Expect at Home".

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