By Heather Michon |

Intravenous (IV) catheter therapies are among the most common medical procedures, with an estimated 80% of patients receiving an IV at some point during a hospital stay.

Unfortunately, IVs also have a high failure rate. Most studies put the failure rate—meaning the catheter stopped working effectively and had to be removed and relocated—between 35-50% of the time. The most common causes of failure are accidental dislodgement, infiltration, and phlebitis (inflammation).

For some patients, one failure is followed by another and another, setting off a frustrating cycle of removal and reinsertion when multiple IV failures occur.

“A failed catheter means pain, dissatisfaction, prolongation of care, and venous depletion,” say the authors of one major study of IV failure, “compounded by the need to treat minor and severe IV catheter-failure [conditions]” including bleeding, bruising, clotting, and risk of infection.

When an IV fails, or multiple IV failures occur, the most common remedy is to move on to a different peripheral vein (i.e., those in the hands, arms and legs). If a good placement can’t be made, infusion specialists may look to more invasive methods like a peripherally-inserted central catheter (PICC).

There’s no single cause for multiple IV failures and no one solution. If you find yourself facing an IV failure—or two, or three—talk with your nurse or ask if they have an infusion or vascular access team. Discuss different treatment options and make sure they keep you informed of next steps. Usually, a solution can be found, but sometimes it takes patience and you speaking up and being your own advocate to get there.   




Accepted but Unacceptable: Peripheral IV Catheter Failure –

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