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Totally Implantable Venous Access Devices: A Review of Complications and Management Strategies

Tabatabaie, Omidreza MD, MPH; Kasumova, Gyulnara G. MD; Eskander, Mariam F. MD, MPH; Critchlow, Jonathan F. MD; Tawa, Nicholas E. MD, PhD; Tseng, Jennifer F. MD, MPH

American Journal of Clinical Oncology: February 2017 - Volume 40 - Issue 1 - p 94–105
doi: 10.1097/COC.0000000000000361
Review Article

Objective: Totally implantable venous access devices (portacaths, or “ports”), are widely used for intermittent central venous access especially for cancer patients. Although ports have a superior safety margin compared with other long-term venous access devices, there are a number of complications associated with their use.

Methods: This is a narrative review. We searched PubMed and Google Scholar for articles about complications related to the use of portacaths. “Similar articles” feature of PubMed and reference list of the existing literature were also reviewed for additional relevant studies.

Results: In this review, we provide the latest evidence regarding the most common ones of these adverse events and how to diagnose and treat them. Immediate complications including pneumothorax, hemothorax, arterial puncture, and air embolism as well as late complications such as port infection, malfunction, and thrombosis are covered in detail.

Conclusions: Physicians should be familiar with port complications and their diagnosis and management.

*Surgical Outcomes Analysis & Research

Department of Surgery, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Jennifer F. Tseng, MD, MPH, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Ave., Stoneman 9, Boston, MA 02215. E-mail:

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