IV Cannula Insertion: Best Practices and Common Complications

IV cannulas are commonly used medical devices for delivering fluids or medications directly into the bloodstream. In this blog post, we will discuss the best practices for IV cannula insertion and highlight some of the common complications that healthcare professionals should be aware of.


IV cannulas, also known as intravenous catheters, play a crucial role in modern medicine. They provide a direct route for the delivery of medications, fluids, blood products, or nutrients into a patient’s bloodstream. However, improper insertion or handling of IV cannulas can lead to complications, which may range from mild discomfort to severe infections.

Best Practices for IV Cannula Insertion

When inserting an IV cannula, following these best practices can help minimize the risk of complications:

  1. Proper Hand Hygiene: Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer before the procedure. This helps reduce the risk of introducing bacteria into the patient’s bloodstream.
  2. Choose the Right Vein: Select an appropriate vein for cannulation. The most common sites for IV cannula insertion are the median cubital vein, cephalic vein, and basilic vein on the forearm. Consider the patient’s age, medical condition, and vein condition when choosing the site.
  3. Prepare the Patient: Explain the procedure to the patient and obtain their consent. Position the patient comfortably and expose the selected site for cannulation.
  4. Use aseptic techniques: Wear sterile gloves, use sterile drapes, and clean the insertion site using antiseptic solutions (such as chlorhexidine or iodine) to reduce the risk of infections.
  5. Proper Angle and Depth: Insert the cannula at an appropriate angle, usually between 10 to 30 degrees, with the bevel facing upward. Insert it smoothly and advance it to the recommended depth based on the type of IV cannula being used.
  6. Secure the Cannula: Once the cannula is inserted, secure it in place using transparent dressings or adhesive tapes. Avoid placing excessive pressure on the insertion site.

Common Complications

Even with proper insertion techniques, complications can still occur. Here are some of the common complications associated with IV cannulas:

  • Phlebitis: Inflammation of the vein is a common complication that can cause pain, redness, and swelling around the cannula site. It is often caused by the irritation of the vein walls due to the catheter.
  • Infiltration: This occurs when the IV fluid or medication leaks into the surrounding tissues instead of entering the bloodstream. It can cause swelling, pain, and coolness around the cannula site. In severe cases, tissue damage may occur.
  • Extravasation: Similar to infiltration, extravasation happens when a vesicant medication leaks into the tissues. This can lead to severe tissue damage and necrosis, requiring immediate intervention.
  • Infection: Improper aseptic technique during insertion or poor maintenance of the cannula site can lead to bloodstream infections, such as catheter-related bloodstream infections (CRBSIs).


Inserting an IV cannula requires thorough knowledge, attention to detail, and adherence to best practices. By following proper insertion techniques and being aware of potential complications, healthcare professionals can ensure safe and effective IV cannula administration. Regular assessment and prompt intervention are crucial to prevent complications and promote patient well-being.

Remember, continuous education and training on IV cannula insertion and maintenance are essential for healthcare professionals to stay updated with the latest practices and ensure optimal patient care.

Leave a Comment