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Implantable port catheters for
intravenous infusion

Patients given an implantable port catheter for intravenous infusion should understand how it works and be taught how to operate it, above all to avoid complications.

Implantable port catheters are devices allowing central venous access via a catheter linked to a port that is implanted under the skin. These devices are needed for prolonged intravenous treatments or drug treatments that are damaging to the tissues.

The implantable port must fulfil strict criteria: it must be rigid, maintain its shape, be completely impermeable, non toxic, detectable via X ray and compatible with the drugs used. It is inserted under local or even general anaesthetic, in strictly sterile conditions. The positioning of the catheter is then checked by X ray, and it can be used immediately.

Use of a central veinous catheter requires strictly sterile conditions, appropriate equipment and rigorous procedures (rinsing with injectable saline solution before and after each use, a special needle known as a Huber needle, hygiene precautions, etc.).

When possible, the patient needs to be taught various procedures: stopping the drip, rinsing the catheter, removing the needle, putting on a dressing. It is important for patients to learn to recognise complications such as local complications associated with surgery, infections, blocked catheter, thrombosis, so as to be able to act fast.

©Prescrire April 2009

Source: "Les chambres à cathétér implantables" Rev Prescrire 2009; 29 (305): 194-201.

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