By Ryan MacArthur |

When receiving intravenous (IV) fluids or medications via a peripheral IV, it’s important to keep an eye out for common complications like IV infiltration or extravasation.

Infiltration is the result of IV fluids or medications leaking into the surrounding tissue. This can cause swelling, discomfort, burning, and skin blanching. Extravasation is similar except the fluid or medication being infused can result in blistering  and tissue damage.

Here’s a breakdown of the most common causes of infiltration and extravasation and ways to help spot or minimize harm from these events.

Catheter Punctures the Vein Wall

  • When the catheter pushes through the other side of the vein  
  • Can occur at time of insertion, patient movement or IV dislodgement

Leakage from the Insertion Site

  • The medication or fluid escapes through the area where the catheter entered the vein
  • Can occur when there is a clot or restriction to normal venous blood flow causing the fluid or medication to back up out the insertion site

Catheter Comes Out

  • The catheter exits the vein completely
  • Usually happens when the patient’s movements dislodge the IV catheter

Vein Fragility


  • The structure of the vein can’t handle the infusion of the medication or fluid and “blows out,” occurs most frequently in elderly patients

Increased Vein Porosity

  • Usually due to inflammation, which widens the gaps between cells of the vein wall, allowing fluid to leak out.


What should I do if I think I’m experiencing IV infiltration or extravasation?

  • Tell the nurse or doctor immediately if you experience any pain, swelling, or tenderness
  • Apply ice or a warm compress to the area
  • Elevate the arm or hand

How can I prevent IV infiltration or extravasation?

  • Be careful not to make any sudden or jerking movements
  • Stay hydrated before and throughout the duration of the IV therapy
  • Make the doctor or nurse aware of any chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension that may change the veins’ structure

Watch our video on the causes of infiltration here.

Check out our other resources for parents including:



Protect Patients From IV Infiltration –

IV Infiltration Causes, Symptoms and Treatment –

Complications of Peripheral IV Therapy –


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