What is venous access?
Venous access allows your physician to deliver medicine directly into your bloodstream without repeatedly puncturing your blood vessels. In venous access, a long, thin tube, called a catheter, acts as a kind of entry way into your vein. One end of the catheter is placed in a vein, usually in your arm, neck, or chest. The other end exits your body so that your physician can deliver your medicine into your vein by means of the catheter. Sometimes this delivery end may be connected to a circular device called a port under the surface of your skin.
If you need regular injections of medicine over a long period of time or if you will be receiving strong medicine, venous access can protect your veins. For example, some cancer patients receive venous access devices to receive chemotherapy drugs. Physicians also use venous access devices to supply fluids, draw blood, and give blood transfusions. Another type of venous access is called dialysis access. Dialysis access devices help patients who have kidney problems receive hemodialysis to filter their blood as their kidneys would normally filter it if they were healthy.
When am I a candidate for venous access?
You may need venous access if you have a condition that requires prolonged access to your venous system and your veins are weak, scarred, or thin. People with cancer, for example, often need venous access because chemotherapy drugs can irritate arm veins. People who need weeks of antibiotic treatment for a severe infection may also require venous access.
Your physician will decide which type of venous access device you will need. He or she will consider how long you will need the device, what types of drugs will be used, how often you will receive drug injections, and how healthy you are overall. Based on these factors, you may require different types of venous access devices, from an IV to a device that is inserted into your large chest or neck veins and stays under your skin permanently.