Woman with an IV in her hand

How To Insert An IV At Home

IV therapy has many health benefits, from providing hydration and vitamins to delivering medications directly into the bloodstream. IV treatments are no longer limited to hospital and clinic settings, with home health and mobile IV services able to set up an IV at home. Although it’s now possible for individuals to self-administer an IV, this is NOT recommended due to safety concerns. A licensed professional knows how to insert an IV to minimize the chance of infection or causing damage to your veins.

Read on for a brief overview of how you can self-administer IV treatments at home, as well as why a professional home IV service is a safer option.

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How to insert an IV at home

Before you unpack your IV or jab a needle into your arm, it’s important to know how to set up an IV and administer it properly.

1. Gather your materials

Ensure that you have all of your materials at hand before you begin to insert an IV at home. This will help the process go as smoothly as possible.

Your materials should include:

  • Bag of sterile IV fluid
  • Sterile bandage or dressing
  • Sterile disposable gloves
  • Appropriate size IV catheter (typically 14 – 25 gauge)
  • Non-latex tourniquet
  • Gauze
  • Alcohol wipes or alcohol and cotton pads
  • Sharps container
  • Sterile pad or paper
  • Medical tape
  • IV pole

2. Wash your hands thoroughly

Before you handle the IV bag, it’s important to wash your hands with antibacterial soap. Keeping your equipment and your hands clean is essential to preventing infection.

3. Prime the IV tubing

If you don’t know how to prime IV tubing or what it is, “priming” IV tubing is a crucial step that removes all air from the line before the IV is administered to the patient. Air left in the line will enter the circulatory system and cause an embolism, a complication that can cause death.

4. Prepare the vein for IV insertion

Before you look for a vein to insert the catheter, it’s important to first put on sterile gloves to avoid infection. If these gloves become contaminated for any reason, it’s important to take them off and replace them with a new, sterile pair.

You will then want to look for a prominent vein where you insert the catheter. It’s best to use the patient’s non-dominant arm for this purpose.

Places that you should NOT insert an IV include:

  • In the same place where another IV has recently been inserted
  • In a location that interferes with a recent surgery
  • In an area that is currently infected and shows signs of redness or swelling
  • On the same side of the body where a mastectomy or vascular graft has taken place

Once you’ve selected a place to insert the IV, apply a tourniquet. This will restrict the blood flow enough to make veins pop out for an IV. Letting the limb hang towards the floor can also help cause the veins to become more prominent. A vein may be ‘palpated’ with your thumb to further encourage it to become larger.

5. How to insert an IV catheter

Once you’ve chosen a location to insert the needle, disinfect the local area with an alcohol wipe or alcohol-soaked cotton pad.

Take the catheter out of its packaging, making sure to avoid contact with any non-sterile surface. Inspect the catheter to ensure that it is not damaged, that the flashback chamber is affixed securely, and that the catheter hub sits loosely on the needle.

Holding the catheter with your dominant hand, insert the needle into the skin with its bevel facing up. The angle of insertion should be decreased as the needle enters the vein. You will want to see a flashback of blood in the catheter hub, which indicates that you have successfully hit the vein.

If you advance the needle and don’t see a flashback of blood, it’s likely you have missed the vein. DO NOT dig around in an attempt to hit the vein, as this can cause bruising and damage to the vein.

Once you have seen the flashback, pull the needle (not the catheter) about 1 cm out of the vein and insert the catheter into the vein. After this, you may secure the catheter with a sterile bandage over the lower portion of the catheter hub. Remove the tourniquet.

6. Insert the IV tubing and secure the line

Now that the catheter is in place, remove the needle and place it into a clearly-marked sharps container for safe disposal.

Remove the cover from the end of your primed IV tubing and insert it into the catheter hub, then secure it by screwing it into place. It’s important that the line DOES NOT touch the floor at any point.

Secure the tubing to the patient’s skin using tape and hang the IV bag on an IV pole above the patient’s head. Double check that there are no kinks in the line, as this can impact how well the IV fluids flow into the bloodstream.

7. Next steps

After you have successfully administered the IV, it’s important to monitor flow and change the dressing regularly if the catheter must remain in place for an extended amount of time. When the IV is complete, remove the catheter and dispose of any used needles properly.

What is IV piggyback?

An IV piggyback (also known as IVPB), consists of a secondary bag of fluids or medications that is administered to the patient alongside their primary IV fluids and/or medications. The piggyback IV is attached to the primary line, so there is no need for a second catheter.

How to hang IV piggyback

A piggyback IV bag must be handled in much the same way as the primary fluids, with hygiene and proper priming required for a safe procedure. After IV has been properly prepared, you must attach the secondary tubing to the patient’s primary IV fluid line and hang the piggyback bag above the primary bag.

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