How often should a port-A-cath be flushed?

Y. S. Kuo, B. Schwartz, J. Santiago, P. S. Anderson, A. L. Fields, Gary L. Goldberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


While it is important during treatment to flush the port-A-cath (PAC) with heparin regularly, catheter maintenance needs to be evaluated in those patients who, after completion of therapy, retained their ports for extended periods of time. The manufacturer has recommended monthly accession to maintain catheter patency and function. Our objective is to demonstrate that a longer interval between maintenance accessions of PACs still may be medically safe, convenient, and more efficient. We performed a retrospective review of all patients who had undergone PAC insertion from 1988 to 1993 at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and from 1997 to 2002 at the New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens. An adequate maintenance time is defined as a period of at least 6 months without chemotherapy or total parenteral nutrition. Data collected included date and location of PAC insertion, date of PAC accessions, PAC complications, and results of attempts at flushing the catheters with no venous blood return. All data were entered into an Excel spreadsheet and analyzed. The difference in interval accessions in patients without any complication to patients with complication was calculated using the Mann-Whitney "U" test. A total of 73 patients were included in the study. Compliance with visits for PAC maintenance varied considerably with the individual median accession times varying between 28 and 262 days with an overall median of 42 days. The individual means ranged from 29.5 to 244 days with an overall mean of 53.6 days. Seven patients in the group had episodes where the provider was unable to draw blood from the port during routine accession. The average intervals between accessions for each of these patients ranged from 38 to 244 days. The average intervals of accession among those patients who had no blood return during PAC accession was 79 days, versus 63 days for those without any difficulty. The difference was not statistically significant (p > 0.05). Monthly maintenance of PAC is excessive, inconvenient for the patients, and expensive. Extending the interval of PAC maintenance proves to be medically safe and beneficial to the patients, the physicians and the health care system. Our clinical experience suggests that less frequent accessions of PACs is safe and feasible. We strongly advocate future prospective investigation of alternative PAC maintenance protocols in gynecologic cancer patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)582-585
Number of pages4
JournalCancer Investigation
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Catheter flushing
  • Port-A-Cath

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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