What They Don’t Tell You About Getting an Implanted Port

Columnist Shawna Barnes provides insight into living with an implanted port

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by Shawna Barnes |

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“It really won’t hurt, but it will pull. Your skin will turn yellow. You should be back to normal in a few weeks, but you might not feel 100% for a few months.”

What am I talking about? Getting an implanted port to receive infusions. For those of us with myasthenia gravis, our port is often used for intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) infusions. For others, it might be used for other medications or iron infusions.

While talking to a good friend who was getting a port, I explained what she might feel after the port is placed. She remarked that it was the type of information she hadn’t received from healthcare providers.

That conversation got me thinking; As a former Army medic, I had a slight advantage over others because I had a deeper understanding about what was happening and why. Most people who receive this medical device don’t have that luxury. So consider this your post-port training. I hope you find it helpful.

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Adjusting to the pulling and pain

To prevent the port from moving around and to keep it accessible just under the skin, the port is stitched to the underlying muscle. This is explained in pre-op. What’s not explained is how it will feel. One of the things you may feel, which can be unnerving, is a pulling sensation. Because the port sits under the skin and on top of the muscle, stitches are placed in the muscle, usually the pectoralis major, about four fingers below your collarbone.

This pulling sensation likely will occur every time you move your arm on the side the port was placed. It takes time for the stitches to stretch a bit and for the port to settle into its new home. Pay attention to that pulling sensation and adjust your activities accordingly. For me, that sensation lasted about two months. By the third month, I was able to move freely without having that feeling.

The first few times your port is accessed for treatment may be painful. It likely won’t be painful from the surgery, but the muscle is still very bruised and thus tender. It may take a few months for that tenderness to dissipate. If it is painful to have the needle pierce your skin, you can ask for a numbing agent to be applied prior to the nurse accessing your port.

You may need to adjust the way you sleep after you get your port. I used to be a side sleeper, specifically on my right side. I am no longer able to sleep directly on my right side, but rather more at an angle. That’s not because it’s painful; it’s just uncomfortable.

Even after the pulling sensation has ceased, you must acknowledge that you still have a piece of medical equipment embedded into your muscle. My port is on my right side. When one sleeps on their right side, the entire weight of the chest is on the right side. It’s just easier, and more comfortable, to adjust my sleeping habits.

With the port, you likely will be able to shower, take a bath, and swim. Some ports have external hardware that prevents people from being able to do these things due to risk of infection. The PowerPort, which is placed for things like being able to receive IVIG infusions, is completely embedded under the skin. Once the skin heals, there is nothing from this particular procedure that should prevent you from being able to engage in these activities.

Speaking of healing, we all heal at different rates. If you are taking medications that could prolong healing, keep that in mind and add a few days or a week to the estimated healing time. Your skin will turn yellow from bruising. That yellow may last longer than you think it should. When they insert the port, the muscle and fascia around the area takes quite a beating.

You know you. You know your body, how you react to trauma (like having a minor surgery), how you usually heal, and whether you can use having a fever as a reliable sign of infection. If something seems out of place or abnormal for you, then call the surgeon who performed your port placement or the on-call nurse. Let your care team know that something just isn’t right.

I hope this answers some of those often unasked questions and makes getting your port a little less nerve-wracking and anxiety-producing. I know getting my port has been a game changer, and I’m thankful to have it.

Note: Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Myasthenia Gravis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to myasthenia gravis.


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