Vascular access in cancer patients – clinical implications

Abstract: Central venous catheters (CVC) are vital for patients receiving chemotherapy not compatible with peripheral infusion. Thousands of centrally and peripherally inserted central venous catheters are inserted into patients with cancer each year. All types of intravascular catheters are associated with complications. These complications may be divided into infectious, thrombotic, mechanical and occlusive events. All of these events have the potential to harm patients and cause additional expense for the health-care system. Furthermore, the above-mentioned complications are largely avoidable through proper patient selection, insertion technique, hygiene precautions and catheter maintenance.Catheter-related infections and deep venous thrombosis are the two most common and feared CVC related complications. Infection in a catheter can cause lifethreatening bacteraemia, and thrombosis can lead to pulmonary embolisation, post-thrombotic syndrome and stenosis of the vessel affected. Many studies describing methods to minimise infectious complications associated with central venous catheters have been carried out. These methods appear to have been implemented in most modern advanced healthcare facilities resulting in a continual decrease in catheter-related infections over the last two decades. New implantation techniques, fewer infections and better catheter materials are likely to have contributed to the reduction in the incidence of catheter-related deep venous thrombosis (CR-DVT). Peripherally inserted central venous catheters (PICC) and subcutaneously implanted vascular access ports (PORT) are two very commonly used catheter devices for delivery of chemotherapy. International guidelines are unclear as to which device to choose due to the paucity of controlled trials.The aim of this thesis was to study complications related to central venous access devices used over long periods of time, usually for the delivery of chemotherapy. Vascular access in cancer patients – clinical implications We prospectively studied PORT complications (Study 1) over a six-month follow- up period. In Study 2, we assessed the number of common CVC-related micro- organisms that are transferred across PORT membrane contaminated by a controlled suspension of micro-organisms when a non-coring access needle is inserted using two different techniques. In the largest randomised controlled trial published on this topic (Study 3), we compared PICC with PORT regarding CRDVT and other catheter-related complications. The economic implications of using PICC or PORT were assessed from health-care system´s perspective (Study 4), using data on adverse events and clinical factors (implantation, treatments and dwell-time) from Study 3.Chemotherapy against various forms of cancer is very common. Implantation of PORT is one of the ten most common surgical procedures in Sweden according to the Swedish Perioperative Register. Hence, the topic in this thesis may be clinically relevant to many patients and their health care providers.We found that the incidence of catheter-related blood stream infection was very low in the cohorts studied. In general, PICCs are associated with significantly more CR-DVTs and adverse events than PORTs. The cost to the health-care system when using PICC is higher than for PORT when complications are included. Given the choice, patients about to commence chemotherapy appear to prefer PORT to PICC. PORT implantation is more painful than PICC insertion, but PICC appears to influence activities of daily life more than PORT.

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