By Ryan MacArthur |

Intravenous (IV) failure is an unfortunate, yet common occurrence in healthcare. Even in the top hospitals in the world, the overall failure rate for IV therapy hovers between 35% – 50%.

When an IV fails, there are a variety of complications and side effects that may set in depending on how the IV failed and how long it takes to discover and treat the issue. But are IV failure side effects reversible?

IV Failure Side Effects

As is the case with most health-related complications, IV failure side effects can range from easily treatable to severe enough to cause permanent damage.

Side effects can include:

  • Swelling
  • Blisters
  • Permanent nerve injury
  • Impaired use of extremity
  • Amputation


For infiltrations, healthcare providers will typically remove the IV and elevate the patient’s limb before applying a warm or cold compress to help with the swelling and pain. These complications usually go away in a few hours, but can take longer depending on severity.


Compartment Syndrome

When too much fluid leaks into the body it can lead to compartment syndrome, which may cause nerve, tissue or muscle damage. This often requires emergency surgery to help decompress the affected area. Patients should expect more extensive rehabilitation and healing time.


IV failures involving severe complications like extravasation, particularly from chemotherapy drugs, can leave permanent damage including third-degree burns or necrosis.

Serious burns may require a skin graft – a surgeon removes unburned skin and places it over the affected area. Wounds with necrotic(dead)  tissue cannot heal and must be removed to allow healthy tissue to grow in its place. While amputating the area may create a much larger wound, it is sometimes the only way to treat the complication.

Injuries and complications can usually be minimized or completely eliminated when patients and healthcare providers carefully monitor and care for the IV site. If you ever experience any complications as a result of IV therapy, be sure to notify a nurse or doctor immediately, so they can try to mitigate any lasting effects.

Check out our other resources for parents including:


Image Source – How to Help During a Hospitalization –

Treatment Options for Necrotic Wounds –

Complications of Peripheral I.V. Therapy –

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