Types of IV Cannula – Explained and Illustrated

When it comes to administering medication or fluids intravenously, IV cannulas play an essential role in providing safe and effective access to the patient’s circulatory system. There are several types of IV cannulas available that vary in size, design, and specialty features. In this article, we will delve into the different types of IV cannulas and their specific applications.

1. Peripheral IV Cannula

The peripheral IV cannula is the most common type used for general fluid administration and medication delivery. It consists of a hollow plastic tube with a sharp beveled tip, alongside a safety mechanism to prevent accidental needlestick injuries. Peripheral IV cannulas are inserted into peripheral veins, usually in the arm or hand, and can remain in place for up to 96 hours.

2. Central Venous Catheter

A central venous catheter (CVC) is a longer, thicker IV cannula designed for specific situations that require central venous access. It is inserted into a large vein near the heart, such as the jugular, subclavian, or femoral vein. Central venous catheters can be used for diverse purposes, including administration of chemotherapy drugs, parenteral nutrition, and hemodialysis.

3. Midline Catheter

The midline catheter is an intermediate option between a peripheral IV cannula and a central venous catheter. It is longer than a peripheral IV but doesn’t extend as far as a CVC. Midline catheters are typically inserted into the upper arm and advanced until the tip lies in the axillary or cephalic vein. They are used for administration of long-term antibiotics, certain medications, and blood draws.

4. Winged Infusion Set

A winged infusion set, also known as a butterfly catheter, is a short IV cannula with flexible wings on each side. The wings provide stabilization during the insertion process. Winged infusion sets are commonly used when access to smaller veins is required, such as in pediatric patients or those with fragile veins. They are particularly useful for administering contrast media during imaging procedures.

5. Safety IV Cannula

Safety IV cannulas, or safety-engineered IV catheters, are designed with additional safety features to minimize the risk of needlestick injuries. These cannulas incorporate mechanisms that automatically retract or shield the needle after it has been withdrawn from the patient, reducing the chances of accidental needle pricks, which can transmit bloodborne infections. Safety IV cannulas are widely used in healthcare settings to prioritize staff and patient safety.


Intravenous cannulation is a crucial aspect of medical care, and understanding the different types of IV cannulas available is essential for healthcare professionals. Each type of cannula serves a specific purpose based on the required therapy, patient condition, and the duration of treatment. Choosing the appropriate IV cannula can ensure the delivery of fluids and medications is safe, efficient, and comfortable for the patient.

By staying up-to-date with advancements in IV cannula technology and practicing proper insertion techniques, medical professionals can optimize patient outcomes and minimize potential complications.

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