IV Cannula vs IV Catheter

An Intravenous (IV) line is commonly used in the healthcare setting to administer fluids, medications, or draw blood. Two common devices used for this purpose are IV cannulas and IV catheters. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there are distinct differences between the two. In this article, we will explore the variances between IV cannulas and IV catheters.

What is an IV Cannula?

An IV cannula, also known as an IV needle or peripheral IV, is a thin, hollow tube that is inserted into a superficial vein in the body. It is primarily used for short-term treatments and is typically removed once the treatment is complete. IV cannulas are available in different sizes called gauges, which determine the thickness of the needle. Common gauge sizes include 18G, 20G, 22G, and 24G.

The Role of an IV Cannula

An IV cannula allows medical professionals to administer fluids, medications, and other treatments directly into the patient’s bloodstream. It is suitable for patients who require short-term therapy, such as hydration, antibiotic administration, or pain relief. IV cannulas are often used in emergency departments, clinics, and general medical floors.

What is an IV Catheter?

An IV catheter, also known as a central line or a central venous catheter, is a longer and thicker tube compared to an IV cannula. It is inserted into a major vein, often in the chest or neck, and can be left in place for an extended period. IV catheters are commonly used for long-term treatments and for patients who require frequent blood draws, prolonged medication administration, or complex medical therapies.

The Role of an IV Catheter

An IV catheter provides a reliable access point for administering fluids, medications, and multiple therapies. It is suitable for patients who require long-term treatment, specialized medications, or frequent blood sampling. IV catheters are often used in critical care units, surgical settings, and oncology departments.

Key Differences

IV Cannula IV Catheter
Short-term use Long-term use
Inserted in superficial veins Inserted in major veins
Small and thin Thicker and longer
Typically available in 18G-24G sizes Available in various sizes, including larger diameters


In summary, both IV cannulas and IV catheters play important roles in delivering fluids and medications to patients. The choice between them depends on the duration and complexity of treatment, as well as the patient’s individual needs. Medical professionals carefully assess these factors to determine which device is most appropriate for each patient. Understanding the differences between IV cannulas and IV catheters helps ensure optimal patient care and treatment outcomes.

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