How Much Air In An IV Line Is Safe And Other IV Complications, Explained

When administered by a licensed nurse or clinician, intravenous (IV) treatments are very safe. Like most other medical procedures, though, IV therapy comes with some risks. If you’ve ever wondered how much air in an IV line is safe or the other problems you could encounter with this type of treatment, read on for more information.

Potential IV complications

1. Infection

Any invasive medical procedure, no matter how minimal, always carries the risk of infection. In the case of IV therapy, infections can happen if skin at the injection site is not properly cleaned or if the needle itself is contaminated. This risk is minimized when the IV is administered by a professional.

2. IV infiltration

If you’ve never heard of this complication, you may be wondering, “What is IV infiltration?” IV infiltration occurs when fluids and certain medications from the IV are infused into the tissue surrounding the vein.

IV infiltration can happen if:

  • The IV is not properly situated in a vein
  • The catheter slips out of the vein
  • The catheter pierces the vein

IV infiltration may cause pain and swelling, and certain medications can damage the surrounding tissue. Prompt treatment can prevent permanent damage.

What is the difference between IV extravasation and IV infiltration?

‘Extravasation’ and IV infiltration are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably. They both refer to IV fluids and medications that have leaked into the tissue surrounding the injection. The difference lies in the type of drug that has leaked.

3. Phlebitis

‘Phlebitis’ is the inflammation of a vein that can happen after an IV is inserted. It may cause redness, swelling, warm skin, or tenderness at the injection site.

Phlebitis can happen when:

  • The cannula (the tube that is inserted into the bloodstream) is too large for the patient
  • The cannula is improperly secured
  • The pH of the fluid is incorrect
  • The IV injection site has been used for a prolonged period of time

4. Hematoma

A hematoma may look like a bruise, but it’s actually a different condition. A hematoma happens when blood leaks into the tissues surrounding the IV injection site.

This can happen if the catheter passes through multiple walls of the blood vessel. It can also happen if insufficient pressure is applied to the IV site while the catheter is being removed. Knowing how to remove an IV properly can help avert this problem.

5. Air embolism

An air embolism occurs when air gets into the bloodstream. This complication is extremely rare and can be fatal. Fortunately, an embolism can be easily averted with tubing that has been properly primed (in other words, all air has been removed from the line).

How much air in an IV line is safe?

A patient may tolerate up to 1 CC per kilogram of weight of air. That said, it’s safest for a clinician to administer your IV. They can ensure the IV has been administered properly and can respond appropriately if air does get into the bloodstream.

Related:

IV Treatment At Home Can Be Safe With Drip Hydration

Self-administering IV treatment at home may seem convenient and highly customizable, but it isn’t recommended due to the possible complications we’ve discussed, as well as the hassle of purchasing IV bags and other equipment.

Fortunately, there is still a way to get IV treatment without leaving your house. Drip Hydration can bring your appointment directly to you. We offer a wide selection of specially formulated blends designed to address a wide range of health targets. All of our IVs are administered by experienced and friendly registered nurses for your safety.

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