Evaluation of an implantable venous access system in a general oncology population

C. H. Barrios, J. E. Zuke, B. Blaes, J. D. Hirsch, A. P. Lyss

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Venous access has been a problem for the practising oncologist. Previous approaches, such as arteriovenous fistulas, grafts, or percutaneous catheters, have not gained widespread acceptability. We report our experiences with 230 Port-a-Cath devices, a totally implantable venous access system. The catheters were placed in 218 general oncology patients for the administration of chemotherapy. One patient had three catheters placed and 10 patients had two catheters each. Most patients received standard bolus chemotherapy, while 25 patients were treated with continuous ambulatory infusions. The catheters were in place for an average of 271 days (range 2 - 1,427 days) for a total of 62,330 catheter days, representing the largest published experience with devices of this type in cancer patients. A total of 24 complications occurred in 22 patients. Catheter insertion was associated with four pneumothoraces, two of which required chest tube drainage. Five catheters were removed because of infection. There were 6 cases of venous thrombosis, but none resulted in pulmonary embolism. Other complications were manageable and included catheter occlusion, migration, and extravasation of chemotherapy agents. The Port-a-Cath is safe and is associated with a low rate of complications. Implantable venous access systems represent a significant advantage in the management of oncology patients with poor venous access.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)474-478
Number of pages5
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1992


  • Oncology, general
  • Supportive care
  • Venous access


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