IV Risks

Intravenous (IV) therapy is one of the most common hospital procedures, with 80% of U.S. hospital patients receiving an IV during their care.

Despite how common IV therapy is, IVs currently have a 50% failure rate. Common types of IV failure include infiltrations, extravasations and phlebitis. Each type of IV failure brings risks that all patients should be aware of.

Infiltrations are responsible for 23% of IV failures. An infiltration occurs when fluid or medication leaks into the tissue surrounding the vein. Every infiltration is also a medication dosing error, meaning patients do not receive the full amount of the medication they need.

Patients may experience pain, discomfort, or complications like nerve damage and amputation.

Extravasations are the infiltration of a blistering agent. This occurs when potentially-damaging medications, known as vesicants, leak into the tissue around the site of the infusion. When leaked, vesicants like chemotherapy drugs can cause pain at the IV site and permanent harm such as the destruction of tissue.

Extravasations are also medication dosing errors, meaning patients do not receive the full amount of the medication they need. Patients may experience pain, discomfort, or complications like nerve damage and amputation.

Phlebitis is the inflammation of the vein, most commonly associated with IV placement on the back of the hand. It may occur in patients whose IV has been in place for several days.

Symptoms include swelling, warmth at the IV site and, in rare cases, a fever.