What is an IV drip?

A patient with an IV line inserted into a vein in the hand.

A continuous intravenous (IV) drip is a medical procedure in which a liquid substance is dripped directly into a vein over time through a tube and needle inserted into the skin. A sealed device called a drip chamber controls the process so that the substance flows slowly into the vein, without any chance of air entering the bloodstream. Air introduced into the bloodstream can create serious health problems and can even be fatal.

An intravenous drip.

An IV drip, also called an IV drip, is commonly associated with long-term treatments, but is also used as a short-term method to rehydrate a patient or give them medicine or nutrients to revitalize them. It is a very efficient process to quickly deliver the prescribed medication to the entire body. IV drips are routinely used in hospitals, as well as in clinics and doctors’ offices that prepare patients for admission to hospitals.

People suffering from dehydration are usually given fluids intravenously.

There are two common types of lines used for IV drips. A peripheral intravenous drip line is used to access peripheral veins or those located anywhere except the abdomen or chest. The other is used in the right atrium of the heart or areas adjacent to the heart. It is known as the central intravenous drip line.

A peripheral IV line is usually inserted into a vein in the arm or hand. Veins in the legs and feet are rarely used, as their location makes access impractical. Scalp veins are commonly used for babies who require an IV. To insert a peripheral IV line, the needle is first inserted into a vein, covered by a plastic holder, and enclosed in a hollow metal cylinder. The needle is correctly placed inside the vein and secured by the external plastic holder. The metal guide is then removed and discarded.

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

A central IV line, or catheter, is inserted directly into the heart’s right atrium or into one of the two adjacent chest cavities. This type of IV is preferred for substances that may be irritating to peripheral veins because of their chemical content or concentration level. Unlike peripheral IVs, a central IV is capable of simultaneously transporting several different substances into the body at the same time. This is done by filling various sections of the inserted catheter with different medications or supplements.

A blood transfusion is a type of intravenous drip.

With either method, complications can arise if needles are not inserted properly and securely or if blood leaks into the vein due to weakness or perforation. Veins often collapse or become inaccessible if repeated IV procedures are performed. In these cases, veins in other parts of the body are used for intravenous access.

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