Home Information Are Your Implantable Catheter Devices Safe?

Are Your Implantable Catheter Devices Safe?

Are Your Implantable Catheter Devices Safe

Beneath your skin lies a secret highway into your veins. A silent subdermal sentinel that carries life-sustaining treatments directly to your bloodstream. But how safe is this subcutaneous shortcut? Are your subcutaneous ports and implantable catheters quietly putting you in danger?

While designed to aid in essential medical care, could port and catheter devices implanted in the body pose unseen risks? Join us as we scrutinize these subdermal systems and reveal what you need to know about the safety of your implantable venous access points.

What are Implanted Catheter Devices?

Implanted catheter devices, also known as port devices, provide long-term intravenous access for patients requiring frequent or ongoing treatment. These devices see widespread use among oncology patients undergoing intermittent chemotherapy, parenteral nutrition, blood transfusions, or other IV therapies.

Port devices consist of a subcutaneous reservoir connected to a catheter inserted into a central vein. The reservoir portion is surgically placed under the skin, appearing as a rounded bump roughly the size of a quarter. This subcutaneous portion provides direct access to the bloodstream via the flexible catheter traveling through a vein.

Doctors commonly recommend port devices for patients expected to receive IV treatments over extended periods, such as months of chemotherapy. Compared to external IV catheters, ports offer the benefits of concealed long-term intravenous access without the inconvenience of visible external lines. This allows patients greater mobility and discretion during lengthy medical regimens.

The global market for implanted port devices reached an estimated value of $489.6 million in 2023. Industry analysts predict this sector will experience strong growth, projecting a compound annual growth rate above 7% through 2033 as port utilization increases among patients with chronic or long-term intravenous therapy requirements.

Implanted catheters thus provide a valuable means of reliable, inconspicuous vascular access that supports the quality of life of many receiving extended hospital treatment.

Understanding Port Implantation Procedure

Port implantation is a minor surgical procedure performed in an operating room or a radiology department. Patients receive a local anesthetic to numb the implantation area as well as sedative medication to promote relaxation during the brief operation.

The doctor makes two small incisions, one under the skin where the port reservoir will be placed and a smaller opening above for catheter insertion into a central vein. Using these entry points, the port device is surgically positioned with the reservoir tucked into a shallow pocket under the skin. The attached catheter is then guided into the targeted vein, and both incisions are closed with sutures.

An x-ray may be taken immediately after to confirm proper port placement. The simple procedure typically takes around an hour to complete.

Patients may feel some bruising, soreness, or tenderness at the implantation sites for a few days as the small wounds heal. Signs of potential infection, like redness, swelling, heat, or drainage, should be reported promptly to the doctor.

Activities like seatbelt contact over the area and lifting objects heavier than 10 pounds should be avoided for about a week following port implantation. Removal of any surface sutures by the doctor or nurse generally occurs 7 to 10 days post-op once healing is established. With proper post-surgical care, the port is then ready for long-term intravenous access as directed by the treatment team.

Why Are Implantable Ports Risky?

Implantable ports offer valuable medical benefits, yet patients must also be cognizant of associated risks.

One significant concern is the potential for infection at the catheter insertion site or where it interfaces with the bloodstream. Symptoms such as redness, swelling, heat, pain, fever, or dizziness around the port area should prompt immediate contact with a doctor.

Additionally, there is a risk of blood clots forming in the vein where the catheter resides. Any indication of swelling, tenderness, or redness in the arm corresponding to the port’s location warrants prompt medical attention.

While Bard PowerPort devices serve to facilitate vascular access for medication delivery, some patients using these ports face heightened risks of serious complications.

Numerous lawsuits, such as the Bard Power Port lawsuit, have been filed against the manufacturer, alleging that PowerPort models are prone to defects leading to severe injuries or infections.

Reported issues encompass catheter fractures, migration of the catheter tip, deep vein thrombosis, damage to veins and blood vessels, catheter or surrounding tissue infections, blood clots, arterial punctures, heart attacks, hemorrhages, and pulmonary problems. Other internal injuries have also been documented.

Of particular concern is the risk posed by fractured catheters, as sharp fragments can circulate in the bloodstream, potentially puncturing organs. According to TorHoerman Law, immediate surgical intervention is often necessary to extract fragments and address affected areas, thereby mitigating dire health consequences.

Furthermore, catheter-related infections present a grave concern. Beyond localized swelling and tenderness, bloodstream infections resulting from port-related infections can pose life-threatening risks if left untreated. Complications may range from bloodstream infections to tissue necrosis surrounding the port.

In light of these concerns and filed lawsuits, numerous cases have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation in federal court to investigate Bard PowerPort safety issues and allegations of product defects.

In summary, while implantable ports offer medical advantages, patients must remain vigilant regarding potential complications and promptly address any early signs of problems.

Are There Any Alternatives?

Peripheral IVs

A peripheral IV, or IV placed in the hand or arm, is a short-term alternative. It provides direct venous access through a needle inserted into surface veins. Peripheral IVs have limitations as they can only remain in place for a few days before needing to be replaced as veins may collapse. They also are not suitable for delivering medications that are caustic or require long-term infusion therapy.

PICC Lines

A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line offers longer-term intravenous access compared to a peripheral IV. It involves inserting a small, flexible catheter into a peripheral arm or leg vein and advancing it into a larger vein in the upper arm, neck, or chest.

PICCs can remain in place for several weeks or months but do carry infection risks similar to implantable ports. Removing them also requires a minor medical procedure.

Implantable Infusion Pumps

For some conditions requiring continuous medication delivery, an implantable infusion pump may be an alternative. These pumps are surgically placed under the skin and connected to catheters threaded into veins or directly to targeted sites. While they avoid the need for percutaneous access, their implantation and programming do require minor medical procedures.

No Vascular Access

In some cases where medications can be taken orally or by other non-IV routes, intravenous access may not be needed at all, depending on a person’s condition and treatment goals. This avoids any complications associated with vascular devices. However, many serious or chronic conditions still require regular IV therapies that necessitate some form of IV access.

Looking ahead, more research on safer port materials and designs could help curb defects. Meanwhile, manufacturers must prioritize transparency around any revision or recall efforts.

Ultimately, individuals have a right to weigh personal risks against benefits when choosing vascular access methods.

Enhanced communication between patients and doctors may alleviate fears, leading to less anxious care and more peace of mind. Only through open discussion can we work to minimize port perils moving forward. Lives depend on it.