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BACKGROUND: The central venous access port device (CVAPD) provides reliable vascular access and is used for delivery of fluids and for obtaining blood samples. However, it can carry some intra- and post-operative complications such as thrombosis, pneumothorax, catheter fracture and port malposition. This article describes one surgeon’s experience over a 16-year period and strategies to avoid complications.

METHODS: The data were prospectively collected from 1996 to 2012 (16-year period). Collected data included age and gender of the patient, pathology, type of port used, anaesthetic type, side and site of insertion, and complications.

RESULTS: A total of 958 devices were implanted. The average age of the patient was 57.8 years. Sixty-eight complications were recorded with an average complication rate of 7.1%. This rate decreased from 23% between 1996 and 1997 to 3.6% from 2010 to 2013. Venous thrombosis was the main source of complications with an incidence of 2.5%. This complication occurred in seven of the first 86 patients (8.1%, 1996-1998) and decreased to 1.9% between 2000 and 2013. Twenty infections (2%), five pneumothoraces secondary to insertion (0.5%), one port malposition (0.1%) and three fractures of the catheter (0.3%) occurred over the 16 years.

CONCLUSION: The surgeon’s complications of CVAPD insertion requiring removal or revision of the port were considerably reduced as the surgeon’s experience increases. It is suggested that all surgeons whose practice includes CVAPD insertion will have an initial learning curve, and strategies described in this paper may help decrease the number of complications.


Fosh, B., Canepa, M. and Eaton, M. (2015) Long-term venous access insertion: ‘the learning curve’. ANZ Journal of Surgery. October 29th. .

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