Benefits and risks of chemotherapy ports

A chemotherapy port (also called a chemotherapy port) is a small device implanted under the skin that connects to a vein in the chest to deliver chemotherapy drugs to the body. If there is no port, a new intravenous (IV) needle needs to be placed every time you get chemotherapy.

Chemo ports are different from peripherally inserted central catheters (also called PICC lines), which are inserted into a vein in your arm and used for a shorter period of time.

This article explains why a chemotherapy port is needed and how the device is implanted. It also outlines the benefits and risks of chemotherapy ports, and how to avoid infections and other complications.

Port Use in Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy involves multiple intravenous infusions of the drug over time. These drugs are usually given in three- to six-month courses, with infusions every two to six weeks. You may take one course or chemotherapy or several courses. In advanced cases, treatment may be ongoing.

Chemo ports save you from the pain and exacerbation of getting stabbed in your arm with every session. However, they are not just for convenience. Some chemotherapy drugs can only be given through a port because they are too corrosive to the veins in your arm. Instead, the drug is delivered to larger, thicker veins in the chest.

Chemotherapy can also cause changes in the veins, making it more difficult for traditional IV needles to access.

Cancer specialist calls oncologist A port is usually recommended if you need more than four infusions. In some cases, a port may allow you to have chemotherapy at home rather than in a hospital or clinic.


Chemo ports are usually recommended if you need more than four IV infusions. Not only do they save you from repeatedly stabbing your arm, but they may be a safer way to deliver some of the more aggressive chemotherapy drugs.

How to implant a chemotherapy port

Chemo ports are surgically placed under the skin near the large veins in the upper chest. They are usually implanted as a same-day surgery and use a local anesthetic to numb the skin rather than put you to sleep. They are sometimes placed at the same time as the surgical removal (resection) of the tumor.

During insertion, a small round metal or plastic disc, called a drum or reservoir, is placed under the skin through a 1- to 2-inch incision.Then connect a connected tube (called a conduit) to the internal jugular vein neck or subclavian vein From shoulder to neck.

After the port is placed, the surgeon will perform an x-ray to make sure the port is properly attached and secured. The port will be visible under the skin, but mostly hidden by clothing.

After chemotherapy is complete, the device can be removed.


A chemotherapy port is implanted under the skin in the upper chest and connected to a large vein. Implantation can be performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia.


As with any surgical procedure, there are pros and cons to having a chemotherapy port. Benefits include:

  • Increased comfort: With the chemotherapy port, the IV needle is inserted into the reservoir through a thin rubber membrane called a septum. You may feel initial pressure, but little pain.
  • Reduced risk of extravasation: chemotherapy drugs may extravasation (leak) and damage surrounding tissue. Chemo ports reduce risk because the delivery vein is large. Leaks, if any, are usually limited to reservoirs.
  • Bath and Swim: You can usually bathe or even swim without worrying about infection because the port is completely wrapped under the skin.


Chemo ports may seem like a “no-brainer,” but they have their limitations and risks. They include:

  • Risk of infection: Although the risk is relatively low, it can occur. Studies have shown that about 2% of chemotherapy ports need to be replaced due to infection.
  • Risk of blood clots: Many people with chemotherapy ports develop blood clots (thrombosis) This can block the catheter.Blockages can often be relieved by injecting blood thinners heparin into the catheter. But sometimes the port needs to be replaced.
  • Mechanical problems: Mechanical problems, such as movement of the catheter or separation of the port from the skin, can cause the chemotherapy port to stop working.
  • Limited mobility: While activities such as bathing and swimming are usually okay, your oncologist may recommend avoiding strenuous exercise involving the chest until chemotherapy is complete.
  • Scars: Some people find that having a permanent scar on their upper chest is a disturbing reminder of their cancer experience. They may also dislike having scars for cosmetic reasons.
  • Surgical Risks: Any surgical procedure has risks, including bleeding risks.a rare complication called pneumothorax It can happen if the lung is accidentally punctured (collapsed lung). Pneumothorax was reported in 1% of cases.


  • easy to use

  • increase comfort

  • barely visible under clothing

  • Reduced risk of extravasation (drug leakage)

  • Bathing or swimming is generally allowed


  • infection risk

  • Risk of blood clots and catheter obstruction

  • mechanical problem

  • Some activities may be restricted

  • scar

  • Risk of surgical complications

avoid complications

As rare as chemical pump infections, they do happen.In severe cases, this can lead to a potentially life-threatening systemic infection called septicemia.

Flushing the catheter with antibiotics and a heparin solution appears to significantly reduce the risk of infection. Cleaning the skin doesn’t seem to help either. However, if there are signs of local infection, antibiotic-impregnated dressings and oral or injectable antibiotics can be used.

Thrombosis is another common reason for port replacement. Regularly flushing the port with heparin does not appear to reduce the risk and may promote bleeding. Any small clots that do form can usually be broken up by injecting heparin into the catheter.


Your cancer care provider can reduce the risk of infection by flushing the catheter with antibiotics and a heparin solution before each chemotherapy session. There are few ways to prevent blood clots, but injections of heparin can usually break up minor clots.


A chemotherapy port is a device implanted under the skin to deliver chemotherapy drugs to a large vein in the upper chest. The port is usually implanted as a same-day surgery under local anesthesia.

Chemoports reduce the need for repeated acupuncture during chemotherapy. The port is largely invisible under clothing and can be submerged in water while bathing or swimming. Even so, chemotherapy ports are at risk for infection, thrombosis (blood clots), and mechanical failure. There is also a risk of surgical complications, including bleeding and pneumothorax.

Flushing the catheter with antibiotics and a heparin solution before each chemotherapy session can reduce the risk of infection. Minor blood clots can usually be broken up by injecting heparin into the catheter.

VigorTip words

Implanting a chemotherapy port is usually the first step in chemotherapy. Since it involves minor surgery, you need to consider the risks.

Before you make an informed decision about surgery, it’s important to discuss the pros and cons of a chemotherapy port with your oncologist and how you need to care for it.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does a chemotherapy port look like?

    Chemo ports are about the size of a silver dollar and can be round, oval, or triangular. The port is implanted under the skin and has a raised center made of a self-sealing rubber material called a septum through which a needle is inserted into the catheter.

  • How long do ports remain after chemotherapy?

    Ports can remain for weeks, months, or even years, but are usually removed after you finish chemotherapy. When your port is in place but you are not being treated, nurses will need to flush it every 4 weeks so that it does not become blocked.

  • How do I remove the chemotherapy port?

    You will usually receive local anesthesia before the chemotherapy port is removed. A small incision will be made and the port and catheter will be removed. The incision is then closed with sutures, surgical tape, or surgical glue, and covered with a bandage.