How Safe Is Your Port Catheter Device?

If you or a loved one relies on a port catheter for medical treatment, you put trust in that device every single day. But have you ever stopped to think about what it takes to truly keep one of these critically important access ports safe?

For many patients, they are a lifeline for delivering crucial medications, fluids, blood products, and more. However, like any foreign object introduced into the body, there are inherent risks that require careful management.

So, if you rely on a port catheter, this conversation is certainly worth following to the end. The matters at hand could deeply impact your health, well-being, and peace of mind.

What Is a Port Catheter Device or Portacath?

A portacath or implantable port consists of a thin tube, known as a catheter, attached to a small reservoir called a port. This device serves the purpose of administering chemotherapy or medication directly into a vein and facilitating the extraction of blood samples.

Typically, the catheter, a soft and flexible tube, is inserted beneath the skin on the chest or occasionally in the arm. One extremity of the tube is situated in a significant vein located just above the heart, while the opposite end is linked to the port. The port, a compact disk, is surgically implanted beneath the skin either on the upper chest or arm.


Purpose of Port Catheter Device

An implantable port serves multiple functions, including the facilitation of treatments like chemotherapy, blood transfusions, antibiotics, and the delivery of intravenous (IV) fluids. Additionally, ports are utilized for conducting blood tests, eliminating the need to insert needles into the arms during each treatment session.

Notably, the port allows individuals to return home with it in place, and its usage duration can extend for weeks, months, or even years for some individuals. Implantable ports prove beneficial in situations where healthcare professionals encounter challenges in accessing veins with conventional needles.


Portacath Complications

Portacaths, though advantageous for medical treatments, come with potential complications. Early complications may include pneumothorax (lung puncture), bleeding during or after implantation, infections at the implantation site, and venous malpositioning or arterial injury during insertion.

Late complications encompass infections related to the port or catheter, mechanical failures like catheter migration or suture disruption, thrombosis (clotting) within the port or catheter, and port separation or damage.

Additional risks involve potential infections, blockages, and clots, as well as less common issues like catheter twisting and clot formation within the port or catheter tip.

While the frequency and severity of these complications vary, maintaining vigilance and seeking prompt medical attention can help mitigate risks associated with portacath devices.

Legal Battles

The Bard® PowerPort™, a collection of port catheter devices designed for subcutaneous implantation to deliver medicine into the bloodstream, has become the subject of legal battles. Numerous patients have initiated the Bard PowerPort lawsuit, alleging injuries resulting from device breakage or displacement post-implantation.

According to TorHoerman Law, serious injuries and complications are associated with the Bard PowerPort Device. These complications include catheter fractures, migration, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), damage to veins and blood vessels, catheter infection, necrosis, blood clots, and arterial puncture.

Additionally, there are other issues, such as heart attack, hematoma, hemorrhage, hemothorax, pulmonary pseudoaneurysm, pulmonary embolism, tachycardia, collapsed lung, stroke, and other severe injuries.

Primarily employed for vascular access and medication delivery, Bard PowerPort devices have prompted legal actions due to concerns about patients experiencing serious complications attributed to catheter failure.

In March 2020, the FDA announced a Bard PowerPort recall, which was later terminated in May 2022. However, individuals who suffered harm from the Bard PowerPort Device continue to pursue legal recourse despite the recall termination.


Alternatives to Portacath Devices

Several alternatives exist to implantable ports for achieving long-term intravenous access:


Peripherally Inserted Central Catheters (PICC Lines)

These are inserted into a peripheral vein and advanced towards a larger vein, providing intermediate-term access for medication and fluids. However, they carry an increased risk of infections and mechanical complications compared to implanted ports.

Tunnelled External Catheters

Positioned under the skin but remaining external, these catheters are connected to a vein. While offering long-term access, they are more susceptible to infection compared to implanted ports.

Long-Term Dialysis Catheters

Designed explicitly for hemodialysis access, these catheters provide long-term use for specific medical needs. However, their utility is specialized for dialysis and may not be suitable for general intravenous access.

Peritoneal Dialysis Catheters

Implanted into the abdomen for peritoneal dialysis, these catheters offer a long-term access route. However, their application is specific to dialysis requirements.

Jugular or Subclavian Tunneled Catheters

These external devices offer long-term access but are prone to complications such as infection and mechanical issues.

The selection among these alternatives depends on the patient’s unique medical needs and the associated risks related to the specific procedure and device. Each option comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks.

In conclusion, while port catheters are extremely useful for many patients who require long-term IV access, they come with risks that must be carefully managed. Complications can range from minor issues to very serious problems. Maintaining vigilance over the device and checking for any complications immediately is important. Some port models have faced lawsuits over injuries alleged to be caused by device failures. Port catheters provide an essential medical benefit when other options may not work, but patients and healthcare providers should not overlook their risks. Continued safety monitoring of these implanted devices is warra