What are the most common intravenous complications?

A hematoma can occur if a catheter is misplaced and blood pools in the tissues.

Common IV complications are those problems that can sometimes arise when a thin tube known as a catheter is inserted into a vein. An intravenous catheter, or IV catheter, may be needed for some medical treatments. It can also be used during the administration of a blood transfusion, for example, for intravenous feeding when patients are unable to eat normally and for the introduction of fluids into the body to restore fluid and electrolyte balance. Complications can occur if the catheter is positioned incorrectly or moves out of the vein, causing fluid or blood to leak into the tissues. Other common complications include infection and thrombophlebitis, in which a damaged vein becomes inflamed and a blood clot forms.

An IV drip may be given into the veins in the arm if the veins in the hand are not suitable.

When a catheter ends up in the wrong place during insertion or when the tube later leaves the vein or becomes completely dislodged, fluid or medication can leak into the tissues. Typically, firm swelling and sometimes redness can be seen. Quick action is needed in cases where an intravenous infusion is poisonous to tissues, as is the case with most chemotherapy treatments. The catheter is removed after aspirating as much fluid as possible with a syringe. An antidote can be injected near the affected area or placed on the skin, and hot and cold compresses can be applied.

Blood clots are a common intravenous complication.

If a catheter accidentally goes straight through a vein and comes out the other side, or sometimes if pressure is not applied firmly when a catheter is removed, blood can leak and pool in the tissues, forming a swelling known as a hematoma. Typically, hematoma is one of the most easily treated IV complications and should resolve within a few weeks without any treatment. Sometimes a catheter is inserted into an artery by mistake, in which case bright red blood pumps back into the tube, requiring removal of the catheter and applying pressure to stop the bleeding.

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A patient suffering from bulimia may need intravenous feeding.

Infections associated with IV therapy often cause pain, redness, heat, and swelling, and are usually treated with removal of the catheter and administration of antibiotics. Keeping the area and equipment clean when inserting a catheter helps prevent infections. In thrombophlebitis, the characteristic damage to the vein wall, with associated inflammation and clotting, is more likely to occur when catheters are left in place for a long time or when an intravenous infusion causes irritation. The inflamed vein usually sticks out of the skin as a thick red cord. Treatment consists of removing the catheter and elevating the affected part of the body with the application of warm compresses, and antibiotics are administered if there is an associated infection.

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