By: Heather Michon |

Have you or a loved one ever had to get an IV? IVs can be used for a variety of treatments from dehydration to chemotherapy.

While having an IV is a common procedure, there are still risks involved. Here are 5 things that your IV nurse wants you to know about your IV:

1. You will probably have one.

The establishment of an intravenous line is the most common invasive procedure performed in hospitals, with up to 80% of patients receiving an IV at some point in their hospital stay. And with good reason: it’s the easiest way to quickly deliver fluids, medications, and blood products.

2. But it might fail.

About 50% of IVs stop working correctly at some point. The most common causes of failure are infiltration, where the fluid leaks out of the vein into surrounding tissue; phlebitis, or inflammation of the vein; and dislodgement, where the catheter is accidentally pulled out of the vein.

3. Most failures are resolved without lasting damage.

In most cases, however, IV failure causes mild discomfort that can be treated with removal of the IV, elevation of the limb, application of hot or cold packs, and mild painkillers.

Less common complications include air embolisms, where air bubbles from IV tubing enters the bloodstream and interrupts blood flow to vital organs. Serious complications can occur from IV failure, such as the decay of tissue, nerve damage and even amputation.

4. You have every right to ask questions.

Communication with your medical team and IV nurse is vital. As with any medical procedure, you have the right to ask questions about your IV and the fluids that are being put into your body. Your IV nurse wants you to speak up if you feel discomfort or sense something is wrong. Early detection of IV issues is the best way to limit complications.  

Not sure what questions to ask? Download our guide on How to Talk to Your Health Professional.

5. Improvements are on the horizon.

A 50% failure rate for such a common procedure is unacceptable for many within the medical community.

Companies, researchers, clinicians and hospitals are all working on ways to better visualize veins, to alert staff to infiltration or dislodgement earlier on, to limit the damage caused by IV failures, to reduce the incidence of infections, and to make the process more comfortable for the patient.

 

References –

The Michigan Appropriateness Guide for Intravenous Catheters (MAGIC): Results From a Multispecialty Panel Using the RAND/UCLA Appropriateness Method – http://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/2436759/michigan-appropriateness-guide-intravenous-catheters-magic-results-from-multispecialty-panel

Medical Emergencies and Complications: IV Complications – http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu/projects/aegd/mod01_mec_ivcomp.html

Accepted but unacceptable: peripheral IV catheter failure – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25871866

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