IV Cannula Complications: Understanding the Risks and How to Prevent Them


An intravenous (IV) cannula is a critical medical device used for the administration of fluids, medications, or blood products directly into a patient’s bloodstream. While it is commonly used in hospitals and healthcare settings, it’s important to be aware of the potential complications associated with IV cannulation.

1. Infiltration:

Infiltration occurs when the IV fluid or medication leaks into the surrounding tissues instead of entering the bloodstream. This can happen due to improper placement of the cannula or dislodgement. Signs of infiltration include swelling, coolness, and discomfort at the insertion site. To prevent infiltration, healthcare providers should monitor the IV site regularly and ensure proper securement of the cannula.

2. Phlebitis:

Phlebitis refers to the inflammation of the vein where the cannula is inserted. It can be caused by mechanical irritation, chemical irritation from certain medications, or infections. Common symptoms include redness, warmth, tenderness, and a visible red streak along the vein. To reduce the risk of phlebitis, healthcare professionals should select the appropriate size and type of cannula and rotate the insertion sites regularly.

3. Thrombophlebitis:

Thrombophlebitis is the formation of a blood clot in a vein, often accompanied by inflammation. This complication can occur when the cannula irritates the vein, causing blood to clot. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, and redness along the vein. To prevent thrombophlebitis, healthcare providers should follow aseptic techniques during cannula insertion and promptly remove the cannula once it is no longer needed.

4. Catheter-related bloodstream infections (CRBSIs):

CRBSIs are serious infections that can occur when bacteria or fungi enter the bloodstream through the IV catheter. Symptoms may include fever, chills, and redness or tenderness around the insertion site. To minimize the risk of CRBSIs, healthcare providers should strictly adhere to infection control protocols, such as proper hand hygiene, using sterile technique during cannula insertion, and regularly changing the dressing and tubing.

5. Nerve injury:

In rare cases, IV cannulation can cause nerve injury, leading to pain, numbness, or tingling sensation along the respective nerve pathway. To avoid nerve injury, healthcare professionals should carefully assess the insertion site and avoid areas with underlying nerves. They should also pay attention to patients’ feedback during the cannulation process.

6. Hematoma:

A hematoma occurs when blood accumulates at the cannula site due to a punctured blood vessel. It may cause swelling, discoloration, and a firm lump at the insertion site. Applying firm pressure after cannula removal can help prevent hematoma formation.

Prevention and Best Practices:

– Carefully select the appropriate cannula size and type based on the patient’s condition and the intended use.

– Follow proper aseptic techniques during insertion and ensure good hand hygiene.

– Regularly assess the cannula site for any signs of complications.

– Rotate the insertion site whenever possible to minimize vein irritation.

– Secure the cannula properly to prevent accidental dislodgement.

– Educate patients on the importance of reporting any discomfort or changes at the insertion site.


IV cannulation is a common medical procedure, but it is not without risks. By understanding the potential complications and following best practices for prevention, healthcare professionals can ensure the safety and well-being of their patients. Regular monitoring, proper securement, and adherence to aseptic techniques are essential in mitigating the risks associated with IV cannula complications.

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