The Most Common Complications of IV Cannula Placement

An intravenous (IV) cannula is a crucial medical device that enables the administration of medications, fluids, and blood products directly into a patient’s vein. While IV cannulation is a routine procedure performed by healthcare professionals, there are certain complications that can arise during or after its placement. Understanding and preventing these complications is vital to ensure patient safety and effective treatment.

1. Phlebitis:

One of the most common complications of IV cannula placement is phlebitis, which refers to inflammation of the vein. It can be caused by various factors, such as chemical irritation from the medication, mechanical trauma during insertion, or bacterial contamination. Symptoms include pain, redness, warmth, and swelling around the cannula site. To prevent phlebitis, healthcare providers should use proper sterile techniques during insertion and regularly assess the cannula site for signs of inflammation.

2. Infiltration:

Infiltration occurs when the IV fluid or medication leaks from the vein into the surrounding tissue. This can happen due to improper cannula placement or dislodgment. Signs of infiltration include swelling, coolness, and pallor around the insertion site. Severe cases may cause compartment syndrome or tissue necrosis. Healthcare professionals should carefully secure the cannula, monitor the infusion site regularly, and promptly address any signs of infiltration.

3. Extravasation:

Extravasation is similar to infiltration but involves the inadvertent administration of vesicant or irritant substances. These substances can cause severe tissue damage and necrosis. Certain medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, carry a higher risk of extravasation. To prevent this complication, healthcare providers should be cautious when administering vesicant medications and follow specific protocols for their administration.

4. Catheter-related bloodstream infections (CRBSIs):

CRBSIs are serious complications that can occur when microorganisms enter the bloodstream through the IV catheter. They can lead to severe bacterial infections, sepsis, and other life-threatening complications. To prevent CRBSIs, healthcare providers should follow strict aseptic techniques, regularly assess the catheter site, and promptly remove any catheters that are no longer necessary.

5. Occlusion:

Occlusion refers to the blockage of the IV cannula, preventing the administration of fluids or medications. It can occur due to several factors, including blood clots, medication precipitates, or kinking of the tubing. Regular flushing of the cannula and proper monitoring can help prevent occlusion. Prompt action should be taken if there are any signs of blockage.

While IV cannulation is a widely used medical procedure, healthcare providers must be aware of the potential complications. By understanding these complications and implementing preventive measures, healthcare professionals can ensure safe and effective IV cannula placement and minimize patient risks.

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