Peripheral Intravenous Cannula Complications: A Comprehensive Guide

Intravenous cannulation is a common medical procedure, frequently used to administer fluids, medications, or blood products directly into a patient’s bloodstream. While it is a widely practiced technique with numerous benefits, it is not without its complications. In this blog post, we will explore some of the possible complications that can arise from peripheral intravenous cannula insertion.

1. Infiltration and Extravasation

One of the most common complications of peripheral IV cannulation is the infiltration or extravasation of fluids or medications. This occurs when the fluid or medication leaks into the surrounding tissues instead of entering the bloodstream. Patients may experience local swelling, pain, or blanching at the insertion site. In severe cases, it can lead to tissue necrosis or other long-term damage.

2. Phlebitis

Phlebitis, inflammation of the vein, is another potential complication of IV cannulation. It is often characterized by pain, redness, warmth, and swelling along the path of the inserted cannula. Phlebitis can occur due to mechanical irritation, chemical irritation from medications, or bacterial contamination.

3. Occlusion

Occlusion refers to the blockage or obstruction of the cannula, preventing the flow of fluids or medications. It can occur due to blood clots, medication precipitates, or small fragments of broken cannula material. Nurses and healthcare professionals should regularly assess the patency of the IV line to prevent this complication.

4. Catheter-related bloodstream infections (CRBSIs)

CRBSIs are serious and potentially life-threatening complications associated with IV cannulation. These infections occur when bacteria or other microorganisms enter the bloodstream through the intravenous catheter. Symptoms may include fever, chills, hypotension, and local inflammation. Strict aseptic techniques during cannula insertion and proper maintenance of the cannula site are crucial in preventing CRBSIs.

5. Nerve Injury

In rare cases, peripheral IV cannulation can lead to nerve injury. This can occur if the cannula accidentally punctures or compresses a nerve during insertion. Patients may experience pain, numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in the affected area. Healthcare professionals should carefully choose cannulation sites to avoid nerves and regularly assess patients for any signs of nerve injury.

6. Hematoma Formation

Hematoma formation, the collection of blood outside the blood vessels, is another potential complication. It can occur due to accidental puncture of a blood vessel during cannula insertion or dislodgment of the cannula. Hematomas typically present as swollen, painful, and discolored areas around the insertion site.

7. Allergic Reactions

Sometimes, patients may develop allergic reactions to the materials used in IV cannulas, such as latex or specific metals. These reactions can range from mild irritation to severe anaphylaxis. Healthcare professionals should be vigilant in identifying any signs of an allergic reaction and respond promptly.

8. Mechanical Complications

Peripheral IV cannulas may face various mechanical complications, such as dislodgment, kinking, or accidental removal. These situations can disrupt the prescribed therapy and require immediate intervention to ensure the continuity of treatment.


Peripheral intravenous cannulation is a valuable medical technique; however, it is important to be aware of its potential complications. By understanding and recognizing these complications, healthcare professionals can take appropriate measures to prevent and manage them effectively. Frequent monitoring, proper site selection, and adherence to aseptic techniques are essential in reducing the risk of peripheral IV cannula complications.

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