PICC vs. Port: Making The Best Choice For You

by Anonymous
Emily with her implanted port

Is it time to decide which medical device is right for you? There are a lot of reasons why patients may need to get a peripheral catheter inserted. Sometimes patients are given the option to choose between a PICC Line vs. a port, but before making your big decision, it’s important to know the facts about both medical devices.

How is a PICC line inserted?

When I got my PICC line, I went to the hospital and had a specialty nurse ultrasound my arm to look for an adequate vein. You are awake during the procedure, but they numb your arm before inserting the catheter. They push the catheter through your vein until it is in the right position, which is identified with an x-ray. Afterward, they bandaged my arm and explained how to care for the PICC line.

The whole procedure took about thirty minutes. They told me I would be a little sore afterward, but I was pain-free about two days later. They said everyone is different, and I could have had more pain because my veins were so small.

Ultimate Guide to PICCs, The Video Series: What Happens During a PICC Placement? (Episode 2)

How is a port inserted?

I made an appointment with a surgeon to get my port placed. I was in the hospital for about three hours, but the actual surgery only took about 40 minutes. For my PICC Line placement, I was in about the same amount of pain, but they gave me pain medicine, so it was more manageable. Make sure you have a towel or something to put under your seat belt on the way home because that will cause some discomfort!

Ports are usually placed on the chest wall. An incision of approximately 3 cm is made in the skin on the front of the chest, where a “pocket” is created under the skin for the port to be inserted. Using ultrasound guidance, access is gained to the vein in the neck, via a small (5mm) incision. 

The tube (catheter) is then fed through the vein until the tip of the catheter is sitting in one of the large veins in your chest. A small tunnel is made in the skin for the tube to pass through and the other end is connected to the port. Correct positioning of the catheter is confirmed by fluoroscopy (using an x-ray). The incisions under the collarbone and the side of the neck are closed with dissolvable sutures (stitches), and a small sterile dressing is put in place. Below, you will find a list of the pros and cons of living with a PICC line vs. a port based on my experience living with both medical devices.

Pros and cons of living with a PICC line

Pros:

  • Less invasive and less expensive procedure
  • Good short-term option if you only need an IV for a few months

Cons:

  • A PICC line has to be used or flushed every day
  • Cannot get the PICC line wet
  • Cannot lift weights or do activities with your arms that could risk it getting displaced

For PICC protection, check out Mighty Well’s daily and waterproof PICC Line Covers here.

Pros and cons of living with a port

Pros:  

  • Less risk of infection than a PICC line
  • A port does not have to be used every day, just flushed every 14 days
  • You can de-access your port and go swimming or shower without a shower shield 

Cons:

  • More invasive procedure (surgery to get it placed and taken out once you are all done with treatment)
  • The procedure can be expensive depending on your health insurance

Got more questions about PICC Lines?  Check out our PICC Educational Hub for everything you need to know about PICCs. 

Living with illness and disability can be isolating. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be. Sign up below to be in the know on our latest product and content releases, exclusive offers, and community events.

You may also like

6 comments

Katrina McElhinney February 5, 2020 - 6:27 pm

Thank you so much for your experience. We are trying to decide the best route for our daughter and this was incredibly helpful.

Ariela Paulsen April 20, 2020 - 10:50 am

I’m so glad! Feel free to reach out or join our Friends in the Fight facebook group (click here) if you have any questions or are looking for support. We’ve been there!

LANA COTTER February 12, 2021 - 8:09 am

Thank you for sharing your journey. I am a phlebotomist and have looked all over the internet for some guidance on what all these tubes are! We don’t get trained on it at the hospital where I work! This really helped me understand. You are beautiful btw. I wish you well and much love and many blessings! Lana (Casper, WY)

Candice Matthew January 10, 2022 - 7:52 am

I can only comment on a port.
It was a God send.
until the nurse flushing it, forced a flush. I had a painful feeling in my neck, the nurse then said to me. well it’s not my fault.
You dont force a flush.
She blew my port apart.
Had to go to emergency , they went through my groin to retrieve the pirt line.
Then had to have the rest of the port removed.
But I still reccomend a port.

Caroline Lunger June 24, 2021 - 3:27 am

I’m getting a port next week. Your article is helpful to explain to family, thank you. Is your port on your left or right side?

Ariela Paulsen August 6, 2021 - 3:22 pm

I hope it went well! I’m glad we could help. As I’m sure you’ve not learned, ports are typically on the right side. Good luck with your treatments ♡

Comments are closed.