Childhood Cancer

Children and teens usually cannot wait to have the catheter removed, as it symbolizes that treatment has truly ended. Venous catheters are usually removed soon after treatment ends.

Removal of an external catheter is usually an outpatient procedure. The child is given a mild sedative, then the oncologist gently pulls the catheter out of the child’s body by hand.

Kristin’s Broviac® removal wasn’t too bad. They gave her fentanyl ahead of time, so she was fairly relaxed. I wish they had offered me a sedative as well! One of the nurses had her hand on Kristin’s shoulder and quietly talked to her to try to keep her focused elsewhere. I held her legs, and my wife held her hand. The doctor put one hand on her chest, and pulled on the tubing with the other. It only took about 2 seconds to come out. There was little blood; they just put a Band-Aid® on the site and sent us home.

Implanted catheters such as the PORT-A-CATH® are removed surgically in the operating room. Children are usually given general anesthesia, and the operation usually takes less than half an hour. Only one incision is made, generally just above the port at the same place as the scar from the implantation surgery. The sutures holding the port to the underlying muscle are cut, and the port with tubing is pulled out. The small incision is then stitched and bandaged. When the child begins to awaken, he is brought out to the parent(s). The family then waits until the surgeon approves their departure. Often, the wait is short, because as soon as the child is awake enough to take a small drink or eat a Popsicle®, he is released. However, if your child becomes nauseated from the anesthesia, the wait can be several hours; he won’t be released until he is feeling better.

Brent had a very easy time with his port-removal surgery. We scheduled him to be the first patient early in the morning, so there was no delay getting in. Then the anesthesiologist asked him what flavor of gas he wanted, which he liked. They brought him out to us while he was still groggy, and he woke up feeling goofy and happy. We went home soon thereafter. It felt more like the ending than on the last day of treatment.


Our docs said that Will’s port could come out after the next MRI, which was just after treatment ended. It was a short procedure under general anesthesia, and he actually woke up without thrashing or crying this time. He was so happy to have it gone. He was just barely 5. We talked a little before about the “button” and the tubing coming out, just so he understood it wasn’t part of his body that was being taken out.