Complications of subcutaneous infusion port in the general oncology population

Carlo Ballarini, M. Intra, A. Pisani Ceretti, A. Cordovana, M. Pagani, G. Farina, S. Perrone, M. Tomirotti, A. Scanni, G. P. Spina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Subcutaneous infusion ports (SIPs) represent a valid method for long-term chemotherapy. The SIPs have several advantages over other methods of venous access: they are easy to implant under local anaesthesia, have less discomfort for the patients, allow low costs, can be implanted in day hospital, and can be managed ambulatorily. However, SIPs have delayed complications, frequently related to clinical conditions of the neoplastic patients, and immediate complications, often due to the placement technique. From March 1992 to March 1997 we placed, under local anaesthesia and under fluoroscopic control, 102 SIPs in 99 general oncology patients for long-term chemotherapy (88% solid, 12% haematological tumours). The percutaneous venous access devices were in the subclavian vein in 96% of the cases and in the internal jugular vein in 4% of them. immediate complications were: 1 haemopneumothorax, which required thoracic aspirations and two blood transfusions, 1 loop of the tunneled part of the catheter without alterations in SIP function, and 1 left jugular thrombosis in a patient with subclavian veins already thrombosed. The venous access was in the subclavian vein in the first 2 cases, and it was not necessary to suspend the therapeutic program. In the third instance, implanted in jugular vein, it was necessary to remove the SIP. Delayed complications were: 1 necrosis of the skin over the port, 1 infection of subcutaneous pocket, 2 infections of the system, 1 catheter deconnection, and 3 catheter ruptures with embolization of the catheter tip. The SIPs were removed in all cases but 1 in whom infection was successfully treated by appropriate antibiotic therapy. Embolization of the catheter required removal from the pulmonary artery under fluoroscopic guidance in the cardiac catheterization laboratory. In conclusion, infection and thrombosis are the two major complications of SIP in general oncology patients. In these cases it is not necessary to remove systematically the system, but a correct therapy (antibiotic, fibrinolytic agents) can be utilized with good results. The catheter rupture is often due to the wear over the costoclavicular angle. The interventional radiology is the method of choice in the treatment of the catheter embolization by rupture or dislocation. The experience of the surgical and nursing staff is probably the most important factor in decreasing the total rate of complications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-102
Number of pages6
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1999


  • Central venous catheter, complications
  • Port-A-Cath
  • Subcutaneous infusion port

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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