Understanding Different Types of IV Cannulas

When it comes to administering intravenous (IV) therapy, selecting the right IV cannula is crucial for the success of the procedure. IV cannulas, also known as IV catheters, play a vital role in delivering fluids, medications, and blood products directly into a patient’s bloodstream.

1. Peripheral Venous Cannula (PVC)

The PVC is the most common type of IV cannula used in healthcare settings. It is typically inserted into a peripheral vein, such as the forearm or hand. PVCs come in various sizes, ranging from 14 to 24 gauge, with smaller gauges accommodating higher flow rates.

PVCs are suitable for short-term IV therapy, such as administering antibiotics or fluids. They are easy to insert and are generally well-tolerated by patients.

2. Midline Peripheral Catheter

Midline peripheral catheters are longer cannulas that are inserted into the upper arm. They are designed to remain in place for a longer duration than PVCs, usually up to 4 weeks.

This type of IV cannula is beneficial when patients require medication for an extended period but do not require central line access.

3. Central Venous Catheter (CVC)

CVCs are used when long-term therapy or specific treatments are necessary. Unlike PVCs, CVCs are inserted into larger veins, such as the subclavian or jugular veins. This allows for higher flow rates and the administration of more potent medications.

There are different types of CVCs, including tunneled and non-tunneled catheters, and they often require placement by a trained healthcare professional.

4. Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC)

PICCs are a type of CVC that can be placed in a peripheral vein, typically in the upper arm, and advanced into larger veins near the heart. These catheters are commonly used when patients require long-term IV therapy, such as chemotherapy, total parenteral nutrition (TPN), or frequent blood draws.

PICCs offer various advantages over traditional CVCs, including decreased risk of infection and less discomfort during insertion.

5. Intraosseous Cannula

In certain emergency situations, when venous access is difficult, intraosseous (IO) cannulas can be used. IO cannulas are inserted into the bone marrow of long bones, such as the tibia or humerus, in order to deliver medications and fluids directly into the circulation.

IO access is often used in critical situations, such as cardiac arrest or severe trauma, when obtaining peripheral or central venous access is challenging.


Choosing the appropriate IV cannula for a patient depends on various factors, including the type and duration of therapy, patient comfort, and the skills of the healthcare professional. It is crucial to consider these factors when determining which cannula type to use.

Remember, the information provided here is for educational purposes only, and healthcare professionals should always refer to clinical guidelines and protocols when making decisions regarding IV cannulation.

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