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Caring for my child’s portacath at home

Summary

This resource gives general information regarding the care of your child’s Portacath. You must always discuss any individual concerns with your OPAT nurse.
Do not rely on this resource alone for information about your child’s treatment.

What is a portcath?

A portacath is an implanted venous access device for patients who need frequent intravenous (IV) antibiotics or other drugs.

A portacath has a reservoir (portal) and a tube (catheter). The portal is placed under the skin, usually in the upper chest. The catheter runs in a tunnel under the skin, usually going over the collar bone and then enters the large vein in the lower neck (the internal jugular vein).

To fit the portcath, you child will need some anaesthetic cream called ‘Elma’ or ‘Ametop’ to help reduce the pain and discomfort your child may feel. It will also have a gripper needle which can stay in place for up to 2 weeks. This gripper needle will be taped in place with dressing to stop it from moving.

Looking after the portacath at home

It is very important that the gripper needle, extension and dressing stays clean and dry as this will prevent infection.

Bathe your child in a shallow bath and cover the dressing and bandage to protect from splashes. If the dressing does become wet, dry it with a clean towel. Please contact the outpatient parenteral antibiotic therapy (OPAT) nurse as a new dressing will need to be applied. Do not take your child swimming until it has been removed by your child’s nurse.

It is best if the line can stays covered under clothes when your child is active, to help prevent the line getting caught or pulled.

If the line looks like it has come out or has moved, please let the OPAT team or community nurse know. You will need to come back into hospital even if your child is having home IV antibiotics. The nurses will check if the line can still be used or whether it needs re-fitting.

Signs of infection

The nurse will look at your child’s portacath before each dose. In between this you should also look for possible signs of infection. These include:

  • high temperature
  • pain, heat or redness around the entry point of the line

The nurses will change the dressing over the gripper when soiled or every 14 days when a new needle is used.

What happens if the gripper needle comes out at home?

If the gripper needle comes out at home, apply pressure to the site for up to a minute to stop any bleeding then apply a plaster.

If the line comes out at night, you can wait till the morning to inform the OPAT team. The OPAT team will arrange for you to come into the hospital for another gripper to be inserted or make a decision about whether your child can go onto oral antibiotics. This will be discussed with your child’s medical or surgical team.

Can my child attend school or nursery?

If your child is feeling well enough, they should be able to go back to school or nursery.

Check with your school or nursery first, some may want to know about caring for the line. We are happy to talk to the school with your permission. Your child can take part in most normal activities at school or nursery, but they should avoid vigorous exercise and contact sports.

Summary

This resource gives general information regarding the care of your child’s Portacath. You must always discuss any individual concerns with your OPAT nurse.
Do not rely on this resource alone for information about your child’s treatment.

Contact us

OPAT Nurses work between 10am and 8pm, 7 days a week and can be contacted on 0114 305 3592

If you need to contact someone outside of these hours please contact the hospital switchboard on 0114 271 7000 and ask for the Ward your child was discharged from or the medical registrar on call.

For emergencies call 111 or 999.

OPAT is the main hospital site on D Floor, on Ward 8, via the purple lifts.

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Disclaimer

Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: OPT6

Resource Type: Article

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Summary

This resource gives general information regarding the care of your child’s Portacath. You must always discuss any individual concerns with your OPAT nurse.
Do not rely on this resource alone for information about your child’s treatment.

NHS

Western Bank
Sheffield
S10 2TH

United Kingdom

Switchboard: 0114 271 7000

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