Health Library
Port Care

How Do You Care for a Port?

Description of a Port

  • A port is a special IV (intravenous) line placed under the skin.
  • The port has metal or plastic sides, a rubber-like material on top and a tube coming from the side. The tube is placed into a large blood vessel in the chest, just before the heart. The port is stitched in place under the skin.
  • The port is placed during surgery in the operating room. Your child will be asleep and will not feel any pain. After the surgery you will notice a small incision where the port was placed.
  • The port can be used for medication, fluids and blood draws.
  • A special needle is used to access, or get in to, the port.
  • A numbing cream used on the skin before accessing the port may help ease any discomfort. Your doctor will need to order this cream and you will be told how to use it.
  • The port needs to be flushed at least once a month. The nurse at the hospital or clinic will flush the port, or arrangements can be made to have this done at home by a nurse.
  • There are single lumen and double lumen ports. A lumen is an opening. Double lumen ports are slightly larger and have two separate tubings that both go into the vein.

Caring For a Port at Home

  • Check the port incision for redness, warmth, drainage or swelling. If any of these signs are present, call your doctor.
  • There is no special care once the skin heals where the port was put in.

If your child has an accessed port:

  • Your child may need to go home with the port accessed. The needle used to get into the port is secured in place with tape and covered with a dressing.
  • The nurse will teach you how to care for the port and how to flush the port daily.
  • Arrangements will be made with a home infusion company to provide the supplies and nursing services.

Safety Guidelines For a Port

Your child should avoid activities that could cause damage to the port. Activities include:

  • Contact sports
  • Amusement park rides that cause excessive spinning, twirling, jerking, or shaking. These could cause the port to flip or move.
  • If you are not sure of an activity, ask your doctor or home care nurse.

If your child has an accessed port:

  • Make sure the dressing over the needle stays in place and all edges are sealed. This will keep the needle in place and keep the site clean.
  • Do not get the dressing wet.
  • Take care to avoid tugs and pulls on the tubing.
  • Keep an emergency kit with your child at all times. The emergency kit should have tape, a clamp, gloves and gauze.

Possible Problems with a Port

  • Infection
  • Blockage due to clotting of blood in port
  • The port can flip or turn
  • The tip of the port tubing can move

If your child has an accessed port:

  • The needle could come out

Signs of a Problem with a Port

A skin infection at the port site is possible if there is: 

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Drainage around the port site

A bloodstream infection is possible if your child has: 

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • A sick feeling

Blood can clot inside the port and cause a blocked or clotted port.

The port can flip or turn under the skin if the stitches holding the port come loose. This is unusual and may only be found when the port is being accessed.

The tip of the port tubing may move to another vein in the chest area. An unusual heartbeat, pain in the neck, chest or ear, or swelling in the chest or neck area could be a sign that this has happened.

If your child has an accessed port:

  • Check for swelling around the site or wetness on the dressing. This may mean the needle could be out of the port.

Call Your Child's Doctor If:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has chills, sweating, drowsiness or feels sick.
  • There is any redness, swelling, pain or drainage at the port site.
  • Your child has any swelling in the chest or neck at any time.
  • Your child tells you that something doesn’t feel right in the chest area.

If your child has an accessed port, call your doctor or nurse if:

  • You are not able to flush it.
  • There is any swelling or leakage at or around the port site.

Preventing a Problem with a Port

  • Keep track of when the monthly port flush is due.
  • Avoid contact sports and any activities that could cause damage to the port.
  • Wash your hands before doing any port care.
  • Keep a clean, dry and sealed dressing over a port that is accessed.
  • Avoid tugs or pulls on the tubing if a port is accessed.
  • Avoid amusement park rides that cause spinning, twirling or jerking.

Last Updated 03/2022

Reviewed By Sarah McCune, RN