Complications of IV Cannula


An intravenous (IV) cannula is a commonly used medical device for delivering fluids, medications, and blood products directly into a patient’s vein. While IV cannulas are an essential tool in modern healthcare, they are not without their complications. Understanding these complications is crucial for healthcare professionals to provide safe and effective care to patients.

1. Phlebitis:

Phlebitis is the inflammation of the vein, which can occur as a result of the mechanical irritation caused by the IV cannula or by the infusion solution itself. Symptoms include pain, redness, and swelling around the insertion site. To minimize the risk of phlebitis, healthcare providers should ensure proper insertion technique and regularly assess the insertion site.

2. Infiltration:

Infiltration happens when the IV fluid leaks into the surrounding tissue instead of entering the vein. This can occur due to dislodgement or incorrect placement of the cannula. Signs of infiltration include swelling, coolness, and pallor around the site. Monitoring the insertion site and promptly recognizing these signs is crucial to prevent potential complications like tissue damage or infection.

3. Extravasation:

Extravasation is similar to infiltration but involves the infiltration of intravenous medications or substances that are irritants or vesicants. These substances can cause significant tissue damage, leading to pain, blistering, and necrosis. Healthcare professionals must be vigilant and closely monitor any vesicant medications being administered through an IV cannula.

4. Thrombosis:

Thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot within the vein. It can occur as a result of prolonged catheterization, inadequate flushing, or the use of larger catheters that damage the vessel wall. Healthcare providers should ensure appropriate catheter size and perform regular flushing to reduce the risk of thrombosis. Prompt recognition and management of thrombosis are vital to prevent complications such as deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.

5. Air Embolism:

An air embolism occurs when air enters the bloodstream through the IV cannula. This can happen if the cannula is not properly primed, or if there is a loose connection or dislodgement of the tubing. Air embolism can cause serious complications, including stroke or heart attack. It is crucial to use proper priming techniques, perform regular checks, and ensure secure connections of the IV tubing.

6. Infection:

IV cannulation, if not performed using aseptic technique or if proper infection control measures are not followed, can lead to infections. Bacteria may enter the bloodstream through the insertion site, causing local or systemic infections. Healthcare providers should adhere to strict infection control protocols, practice hand hygiene, and regularly assess the insertion site for signs of infection.

7. Nerve Injury:

Improper placement of the IV cannula can result in nerve injury. This may cause pain, paraesthesia, or even loss of function in the affected area. Healthcare professionals should receive proper training on cannula insertion techniques and always be cautious of avoiding nerves when placing the cannula.


As with any medical procedure, IV cannulation carries the risk of complications. Phlebitis, infiltration, extravasation, thrombosis, air embolism, infection, and nerve injury are some of the potential complications that healthcare professionals should be aware of and take preventive measures to minimize the risks. By understanding these complications and following proper insertion techniques, monitoring, and infection control protocols, healthcare providers can ensure safe and successful IV cannulation, leading to improved patient outcomes.

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