Some patients undergoing more extensive medical treatment may require regular vein access to ensure optimal care. In these cases, regular drug and fluid administration necessitates the long term placement of certain accessible medical devices, which may remain in place for weeks or months at a time and reduces the chance of both medicinal and blood leakage.
Ports & PICCs
An implanted port is placed underneath the skin with a catheter, which is placed directly in the vein, and the attached “port” itself, which is accessed by the physician for the dispensing of IV fluids and medications, or directed flow of blood.
As the port is kept completely underneath the skin, it is safe to bathe and swim in and may be kept inserted for several months or years at a time.
Meanwhile, peripherally inserted central catheters, or PICCs, are used for shorter periods of time where regular access is a temporary part of a patient’s overall treatment.
PICCs are small, flexible tubes that are inserted into a peripheral vein (often in the upper arm) in order to function similarly to that of an IV. The tube, once secured, is threaded inward until it is placed into a vein near the heart, where the physician can direct the flow of blood or dispense fluids/medication.
Tunneled Dialysis Catheters
Tunneled catheters feature two channels for dialysis: one which removes blood to run through the dialysis machine, and another to return the newly purified blood. Such catheters are often placed below the collar bone or in the neck with the tip entering the jugular vein.
Tunneled catheters are also inserted with a cuff underneath the skin and stitched in, which keeps it in place for long-term use and to prevent infection. The proper positioning of the catheter will be confirmed with x-rays.