By Abbie Cornett
Patients treated with intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) whose veins are having trouble supporting an IV frequently ask if I would recommend a port. Many of these patients have damage to their veins from long-term IVIG use and have to be repeatedly stuck before a usable vein is found. It’s not surprising, then, that they are looking for an easier way to receive their treatment.
I faced the decision to have a port installed a number of years ago when I was first diagnosed with common variable immunodeficiency. I had been very sick for a number of years, and my veins were in really bad shape from all the IV steroids and antibiotics I had been treated with. My nurses had to repeatedly stick me before they could find a vein. On the worst day, they tried nine times and then sent me to a chemo center to see if they would have better luck. After 12 attempts, the chemo center staff gave up, and I didn’t get my IVIG treatment that day. When I went back for my infusion, the nurses talked to me about getting a port. My first reaction was: “Absolutely not!” I had a triple lumen multiple times in the past and hated it. The nurses explained that a port is very different and I should do some research, which is what I did. What I found was, like most things, there are pros and cons and, in the end, it is a personal decision.
There are several advantages to a port. A port allows for easy venous access, which helps to save patients’ veins and means fewer needle sticks for patients to endure. It provides immediate access for blood draws, and it allows family members to help with treatment. A port can also reduce administration time for some medications.
But, there are also drawbacks to a port. First, installing a port requires a surgical procedure, which may result in scarring and poses a risk of infection. Because of the infection risk, many doctors will not prescribe a port. If a patient does have a port installed, doctor visitation is required, sterile techniques must be used when accessing it, and when the port is not being used, it requires flushing. If a patient is involved in contact sports, they need to wear padding over the site where the port is located.
If you are considering a port, thoroughly discuss this decision with your physician. It’s a personal decision, and you need to listen to your doctor’s advice, and then decide what is best for you and your lifestyle.
In case you are wondering, I decided against a port for me, and years later, I still feel it was the right decision!
Have you ever considered getting a port?