Central venous access devices are small, flexible tubes placed in large veins for people who require frequent access to the bloodstream. Central venous access devices are often referred to as venous access ports or catheters because they allow frequent access to the veins without deep-needle sticks.
Placement is usually in one of the large veins of the chest or neck, although placement can also be in the groin, if necessary. Venous access devices typically remain in place for long periods: weeks, months or even longer. Venous access devices are most often used for the following purposes:
- Administration of medications such as antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs and other IV-administered drugs
- Administration of fluids and nutritional compounds
- Transfusion of blood products
- Multiple blood draws for diagnostic testing
Venous access devices provide several advantages over regular IV lines, which are usually inserted in a small vein in the hand or arm. Venous access devices avoid problems such as irritation of the vein and blood clots that may occur over time from administering strong medications through small veins.
A central venous device also avoids the inflammation and scarring that can occur in a vein after multiple needle sticks. A central access device increases comfort and reduces anxiety for people who require frequent venous access. Venous access devices that can be implanted under the skin were introduced in 1982. They allow medications to be delivered directly into larger veins, are less likely to clot and can be left in for long periods.