IV 101: The Basics

By: Ryan MacArthur |

Quick read:

80% of U.S. hospital patients receive an IV. IVs were first used to treat dehydration, a common usage still today. The main types are peripheral IVs, central lines and midline catheters. Like any procedure, there are complications to look out for such as infiltration.

Full story:

While modern intravenous (IV) therapies are only a little over 100 years old, the site of an IV bag and catheter tube has become commonplace in hospitals and treatment centers. Roughly 80% of every hospitalized American receives some type of IV treatment, with over 150 million IVs inserted into patients each year.

The History of IVs

Physicians introduced one of the first successful IV treatments during the cholera epidemic of the 19th century to prevent dehydration in patients. After the discovery of blood types in the early 20th century, healthcare providers began using IV therapy to treat soldiers during World War I.

With the advances in infection control methods and medical devices, IV therapy is now one of the most common treatments available to patients.

How They Work

IVs deliver nutrients, fluids, drugs, and blood via a tube called a catheter directly into a patient’s bloodstream.

The Different Types

Healthcare providers categorize IVs by the type of vein the catheter delivers contents into.

  • Peripheral IV – Veins in the arms, hands, feet and legs. Most common type.
  • Central Lines – Large veins near the neck, chest or groin. Generally used for long-term or frequent intravenous access.
  • Midline Catheter– Veins further up the arm above the elbow. Provides easy access for intermediate-term therapies.

Possible Complications

Like almost every medical treatment, IV therapy carries some risk. Infection of the skin, vein or blood can occur, but is preventable through hand washing and standard infection control procedures. Infiltration and Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) are also complications to watch out for. If you or someone you know experiences pain, tenderness or redness with the injection or during treatment, immediately alert a healthcare professional.

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