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What Is a Venous Access Device?

Andrew Kirmayer
Updated May 17, 2024
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A venous access device is surgically implanted into a vein and remains in place until removed. It generally helps doctors inject medications into the body without having to repeatedly use a needle. Usually inserted into the arm, neck, or chest, the device can be used with various intravenous medications, long-term antibiotics, as well as chemotherapy drugs that can irritate small veins. The product is often used for blood transfusions as well. It is usually implanted by minor surgery and there are a few types used depending on the medical needs of the patient.

An intravenous line is a form of venous access device, which stays in a hand or arm vein. While this type is used for relatively short periods, other kinds, such as Peripherally Inserted Central Catheters (PICCs), stay in the body longer. These are typically inserted into a smaller vein and extended into a larger one to more directly administer medication. Tunneled catheters are other kinds which are inserted into a large vein called the vena cava; these go directly into the chest. Some types of venous access devices are fitted with Subcutaneous Vascular Access Devices (SVADs) that connect to the catheter and remain underneath the skin; needles can be injected directly into the SVAD.

The venous access device can be implanted in an operating room, or a type of x-ray machine can be used by a trained nurse in a patient’s room if he or she is hospitalized. People not in the hospital sometimes have a device implanted on an outpatient basis. Before a procedure, doctors often perform tests such as x-rays, ultrasound, and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), as well as procedures to get pictures of the veins.

In some cases, a venous access device can remain in place for months. Blood infections can occur after a period of time, which sometimes require surgeons to remove the device. It is often possible for patients to clean the devices by using salt on the catheters or taking heparin, a drug than prevents clotting. Depending on the type of device used, a patient can flush it clean daily, whether he or she uses it regularly or not.

After a venous access device is implanted, physicians can periodically perform x-ray, ultrasound, and blood tests to check the state of the catheter and port. Surgeons can proceed in removing the venous access device if a medical condition has been treated and it’s not needed anymore. While there are some risks, the use of such a device is often more beneficial than the chance of complications, because it can help treat many serious conditions.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Andrew Kirmayer
By Andrew Kirmayer , Former Writer
Andrew Kirmayer, a freelance writer with his own online writing business, creates engaging content across various industries and disciplines. With a degree in Creative Writing, he is skilled at writing compelling articles, blogs, press releases, website content, web copy, and more, all with the goal of making the web a more informative and engaging place for all audiences.

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Andrew Kirmayer

Andrew Kirmayer

Former Writer

Andrew Kirmayer, a freelance writer with his own online writing business, creates engaging content across various...
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