The 3 Different Types of IVs

By: Ryan MacArthur |

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Medication, fluid or blood can be delivered into the bloodstream using three different types of IVs: peripheral IVs, central lines or midline catheters. Peripheral IVs are most common, placed short term. Central Lines are typically used for long-term treatments. Midline catheters are used as a less invasive method.

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Intravenous (IV) therapy provides a wide variety of treatments and preventative care options. After inserting an IV catheter tube into the patient’s vein, medical staff or caregivers can deliver medications, fluids or blood directly into their bloodstream without having to use a new needle for each individual treatment.

There are three different categories of IVs: peripheral IVs, central venous catheters or midline catheters. Healthcare providers administer and use each type of IV for specific treatment purposes.

Peripheral IV or Standard Line – The most common form of IV therapy. Usually given to surgical and emergency room patients, or those needing certain types of radiological imaging. Caregivers typically use standard IV lines for no longer than four days.*

Healthcare providers introduce a needle into vein, most likely on the hand or arm, and replace it with a small device called a cannula. The IV catheter tube attaches to a cannula before being fixed to the skin with an adhesive bandage or non-allergenic alternative.

Central Venous Catheter or Central Line – Given to patients who require medications, nutrients, blood, or fluids over multiple weeks or months. Central lines quickly deliver contents into the heart and produce a fast response for medicines. They’re also handy for quickly supplying large amounts of blood or fluids into a patient’s system.

The central line usually goes into the internal jugular vein (neck), subclavian vein (below the shoulder) or the femoral vein (inner thigh). Healthcare providers use an ultrasound device to guide a hollow needle into the selected vein prior to replacing it with the central line. Some doctors may order a chest X-ray to ensure the line is properly positioned.

Midline Catheter – Appropriate for patients needing IV therapy for more than five days, but less than a month. Midline catheters are a less invasive method for delivering contents or drawing blood samples.

Caregivers place the IV tube in a larger vein, usually higher up on the patient’s arm. Midline catheters can be more effective for older adults with harder to reach veins.

*This differs from hospital to hospital and is decided based on each hospital’s protocol.

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