IV Cannula Complications: Understanding Risks and Prevention


IV cannulas, also known as intravenous catheters, are commonly used in medical settings to administer fluids, medications, and blood products directly into the bloodstream. While IV cannulas are essential for patient care, they can have complications that healthcare professionals need to be aware of. This blog post will explore some of the most common complications associated with IV cannulas, the potential risks they pose to patients, and strategies for preventing these complications.

1. Infiltration and Extravasation

Infiltration refers to the inadvertent leakage of fluids or medications into the surrounding tissues instead of the bloodstream. Extravasation, on the other hand, is the infiltration of vesicant substances that can cause severe tissue damage. Both of these complications can result in pain, swelling, and tissue necrosis if not promptly identified and managed.

To prevent infiltration and extravasation, healthcare professionals should ensure proper cannula placement, secure the cannula with appropriate dressing, regularly assess the insertion site, and educate patients about signs and symptoms to watch for.

2. Phlebitis

Phlebitis is the inflammation of the vein, which is a common complication associated with IV cannulas. It may present with redness, warmth, tenderness, and a palpable cord-like structure along the course of the vein.

The risk of phlebitis can be reduced by using a smaller cannula size, avoiding prolonged cannula dwell time, and employing aseptic technique during insertion and care. Proper monitoring of insertion sites and early removal of cannulas no longer necessary are crucial steps in preventing phlebitis.

3. Thrombophlebitis

Thrombophlebitis is the formation of a blood clot within a vein, usually caused by irritation or damage to the vessel lining. Symptoms can include pain, redness, swelling, and noticeable warmth along the vein. If left untreated, the clot can migrate to deeper veins, leading to more serious complications.

To minimize the risk of thrombophlebitis, healthcare providers should follow guidelines for proper insertion, securement, and care of IV cannulas. Frequent site assessment, rotation of cannula insertion sites, and adequate hydration of the patient can all contribute to preventing thrombophlebitis.

4. Catheter-Related Bloodstream Infections (CRBSIs)

CRBSIs are one of the most concerning complications associated with IV cannulas. They occur when bacteria or other microorganisms enter the bloodstream through the cannula, leading to systemic infection. CRBSIs can result in significant morbidity and mortality and require prompt treatment.

Preventing CRBSIs involves strict adherence to aseptic technique during insertion and care, routine hand hygiene, proper disinfection of the insertion site, and regular dressing changes. Healthcare professionals should also be mindful of catheter dwell time and remove the catheter as soon as it is no longer necessary.

5. Nerve Injury

Although rare, nerve injuries can occur during IV cannula insertion. These injuries may cause pain, numbness, or tingling at the site and can potentially lead to long-term complications.

To minimize the risk of nerve injury, healthcare professionals should be adequately trained in cannula insertion techniques and adopt proper needle visualization methods. Careful patient assessment and communication during insertion can also help identify potential risks.


IV cannulas are vital medical devices used for various treatments, but they are not without complications. Understanding the risks associated with IV cannulas and implementing preventive measures are essential for safe and effective patient care. By addressing complications such as infiltration, phlebitis, thrombophlebitis, CRBSIs, and nerve injuries, healthcare professionals can ensure better outcomes and improved patient safety.

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