Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hickman out!

HickmanAt the beginning of January, I had a Hickman line installed. I wrote some about it here. The line exited my skin in the mid-right area of my chest; it ran under my skin up to my collarbone; at my collarbone, it entered my subclavical vein. In the photo at right, the scar where it was pushed into my vein is visible near the strap of my tank top.

This line made my chemotherapy treatment safer and saved me from countless needle sticks. I had it for five and a half months. Today, I had it taken out.

While the line placement was done in a hospital operating room with sedation, the removal was done quickly in the surgeon's office. The procedure started with the surgeon injecting the area with lidocaine. There was a cotton sleeve around the line near where it exited my skin; the surgeon opened up the exit point a little so he could see the sleeve. The cotton caused my body to form scar tissue, which is what has held the line in. (The surgeon said they used to hold these lines in with stitches, but have found the cotton-scar tissue method is much more reliable.) He cut the scar tissue away from the line, and then it just pulled right out.

The surgeon put a couple of loose stitches at the exit point. He said he did not stitch it up nicely because the wound was potentially dirty, not something he wanted to seal up. So I'll have a scar there, much like the scar near my collarbone.

When I had the line placed, I lost a lot of movement in my right arm: it was a month before I regained my full range of motion. The surgeon said I would be sore tomorrow when the lidocaine wore off, but that it would be minor and only last for a few days.

Hickman lines are somewhat uncommon; port-a-caths are the most common type of central access line for cancer patients. When people have their ports removed, they often say they got deported. Unfortunately, there are no such cute sayings regarding Hickman lines. Not to dwell on that, though: I'm so happy to not feel like a cyborg anymore!

1 comment:

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

Great news! Just now getting a moment to see how you're doing. Glad to see that things seem to be going well!