Radial Nerve Injury after Intravenous Cannulation at the Wrist


When it comes to medical procedures, intravenous (IV) cannulation is a commonly performed technique. Although it is considered safe and relatively low risk, there are potential complications that can arise. One such complication is radial nerve injury, which can occur if the IV cannulation is not performed correctly.

Anatomy of the Radial Nerve:

The radial nerve is a major peripheral nerve that supplies the upper limb. It originates from the brachial plexus and travels down the arm, supplying various muscles and providing sensation to a specific region of the forearm and hand. It is particularly vulnerable to injury, especially during invasive procedures near the wrist area.

Causes of Radial Nerve Injury during Wrist IV Cannulation:

Radial nerve injury during IV cannulation at the wrist can occur due to several reasons:

  • Incorrect needle placement: If the needle is inserted too deeply or at an incorrect angle, it can directly damage the radial nerve
  • Excessive force: Applying too much force during needle insertion can cause compression or stretching of the radial nerve
  • Prolonged compression: Keeping pressure on the nerve for an extended period, such as with an improperly secured cannula or tight bandage, can lead to nerve injury

Symptoms and Signs of Radial Nerve Injury:

A radial nerve injury can manifest in various ways:

  • Muscle weakness: Patients may experience difficulty in extending the wrist, fingers, or thumb
  • Sensory changes: Numbness or tingling sensation may be felt along the back of the hand, thumb, and first three fingers
  • Pain and tenderness: The affected area may be painful to touch or feel tender
  • Loss of grip strength: In severe cases, patients may even lose the ability to grip objects properly

Diagnosis and Treatment Options:

If a radial nerve injury is suspected, a thorough clinical examination is necessary. This may involve assessing muscle strength, checking reflexes, and conducting sensory tests. Imaging studies, such as nerve conduction studies or an MRI, might also be performed to assess the extent of the injury.

Treatment options for radial nerve injuries vary depending on the severity:

  • Conservative management: For mild cases, a conservative approach involving rest, physical therapy, and pain management may be sufficient
  • Surgical intervention: In more severe cases, surgical exploration and repair of the damaged nerve may be required
  • Supportive measures: Regardless of the treatment approach, supportive measures like the use of splints, braces, and ergonomic aids can aid in the recovery process

Prevention and Risk Mitigation:

To minimize the risk of radial nerve injury during IV cannulation at the wrist, healthcare professionals should adhere to certain practices:

  • Proper training: Ensuring that clinicians performing IV cannulation are adequately trained in the procedure
  • Correct technique: Utilizing the appropriate needle size, angle, and depth of insertion to minimize the chances of nerve damage
  • Constant vigilance: Promptly identifying any signs or symptoms of nerve injury and taking appropriate action
  • Regular education: Regularly updating medical staff on the latest guidelines and best practices for IV cannulation


Radial nerve injury after intravenous cannulation at the wrist is a potential complication that healthcare professionals must be aware of. By following proper guidelines, maintaining vigilance, and promptly addressing any suspected cases, the risk of such injuries can be minimized. Ultimately, ensuring patient safety and well-being should always be the top priority.

Leave a Comment