Some patients have conditions that require frequent access to a blood vessel. This can include those who receive intravenous medication or nutrition, chemotherapy for cancer, or dialysis for kidney disorders. Other patients may have conditions that require frequent blood transfusions.
To avoid damage to blood vessels from repeated punctures by medical needles, vascular access devices, called catheters, lines, or ports, can be inserted into a blood vessel. Medical needles or tubes from treatment devices can then be inserted into the vascular access device instead of directly into the blood vessel, keeping the blood vessel tissue healthy.
Vascular access devices may be installed for short-term, long-term, or permanent use, depending on their purpose. Some devices are implanted entirely under the skin, while others have an external access point. Procedures include:
- PICC Lines—Catheters for temporary but long-term use (several weeks to several months).
- Chest Ports and Arm Ports—Port catheters implanted under the skin for very long term or permanent use.
- Permacaths—Long-term catheters tunneled under the skin for dialysis patients.
- Hickman Catheters—Long-term catheters for chemotherapy or for intravenous medication or nutrition..
RadiologyInfo.org: Vascular Access Procedures