11 January 2016

Vascular Access Ports in Cats

If you have a cat that is undergoing chemotherapy which must be delivered into a
vein or a cat that needs repeated  IVs or blood draws, one thing to consider is a vascular access port.  A VAP is a small metal or plastic device implanted under the skin with a catheter tude inserted in a major vein, such as the jugular vein or in a femor vein.  Drugs or blood are then injected or extracted from the port using special needles and only entail a prick of the skin as the needle passes through the skin and into the port.  The port itself causes no discomfort.  General anesthesia is required for placement and cats must not have clotting problems (as in too many clots).

Complication rate in dogs and cats is about 10.5%, which is about 10 times higher than in people.  The most common failure is blockage of the tubing or port so that material can neither be injected nor extracted.  This can be prevented by properly flushing the port with heparinized saline after each use.  Complications are higher for those in leg veins than in neck veins in cats.

Also, because of the need to use special needles and have special training to inject into these ports, at the present, these ports are only being used by researchers and a few select cancer treatment centers.  Since most cats do not need repeated blood draws or injections, the usefulness of these ports is unclear.

From "Vascular Access Ports in Cats", Alane Kosanovich Cahalane, pp585-591, Feline Internal Medicine, vol. 7, 2015

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