5 Implantable Catheter Risks Every Patient Should Be Aware Of

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The use of implantable catheters or ports is quite common in hospital and clinical settings. Healthcare providers utilize them to access a patient’s vein for repeated blood draws, transfusions, or IV treatments. While these devices reduce the pain and infection risks with needles, they come with a fair share of complications. 

According to statistics, the rate of port-related complications is a considerable 11.1%. That means catheter-based treatments may go wrong more often than you imagine. The quarter-sized device beneath your skin in your arm, chest, or abdomen can cause more harm than good if a risk becomes a reality.

Awareness enables you to weigh the risks and benefits of implantable ports objectively. Here are the potential threats every patient should be aware of: 


According to a recent survey, infection was the most common complication behind port removal in cancer patients. By entering the body, a catheter provides potentially harmful bacteria a direct pathway to enter the bloodstream. Infections may result in dire complications and require immediate removal of the catheter. 

The growing incidence of the Bard PowerPort lawsuit is glaring evidence of the seriousness of this complication. Patients have reported infections from defective devices, leading to lawsuits claiming compensation for their injuries. In the latest update, 50 Bard PowerPort lawsuits have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL). 

TorHoerman Law notes patients can seek compensation from the manufacturer of the defective device to cover the cost of treatment, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The best way to initiate the claim is by collaborating with a lawyer with relevant experience and a good track record. 


When a needle or catheter is inserted into a vein, irritation and inflammation may occur. It may also cause small blood clots in the vein. Thrombosis, or the formation of venous blood clots, can have dire consequences. These include deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism.

DVT refers to the formation of a blood clot in the deep veins, specifically the lower extremities. The condition may aggravate when a part of the clot breaks off and reaches the lungs, leading to a pulmonary embolism

The condition can be life-threatening, making it a reason to worry for patients getting an implantable catheter. According to statistics, mortality rates within one month of diagnosis for DVT cases are 6% and that for pulmonary embolism cases is 12%.

Catheter Migration

While spontaneous migration of implantable catheters after satisfactory initial placement is rare, it can still happen. The device migrates from its original placement and the wrong position may make it ineffective or cause complications. In worst-case scenarios, catheter migration can cause cardiovascular, thrombotic, neurologic, and infectious complications.

Patients may experience signs such as neck pain, shoulder pain, and ear pain initially. If the condition is not addressed quickly, the issues may aggravate into severe ones such as infections, neurological complications, and venous thrombosis. No matter how uncommon the migration issue is, patients should watch out for it.

Device Malfunction

Another possible complication a patient may encounter with implantable catheters is device malfunction. The Bard PowerPort design defects have been under scrutiny, with complaints such as breathing difficulty and abnormal heart rhythms. In March 2020, the U.S. FDA even announced a class 2 device recall for three models of the brand. 

While these complications depend on device defects or damage, it is crucial to be careful about the brand of port you choose. Also, ensure that you have an expert setting up your catheter. More problems could happen due to kinking blockage. A malfunctioning port may fail to deliver the intended treatment, which necessitates corrective procedures or replacement.

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions may be a risk factor for some patients. You may be sensitive to the materials used in the device, such as plastic, coatings, or adhesive. Although these reactions are relatively uncommon, they can cause discomfort to patients already struggling with medical conditions.

Allergic reactions can lead to various symptoms, such as mild skin irritation, breathing difficulties, and more severe systemic reactions. You should seek medical attention immediately after experiencing such warning signs.

Summing Up

Implantable catheters are meant to ease your recovery journey by eliminating the need for repeated pricking and IV insertions during medical treatment. However, they may not be the safest choice because they entail several risk factors. 

As a patient, you should be aware of these potential threats to make informed decisions. Start with research, ask questions from your provider, and opt for a trusted device brand to minimize the risks and ensure safe and effective treatment.

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