Close-up of leaf with red veins

How to Treat a Blown Vein During Ongoing IV Therapy

A blown vein is an issue that no healthcare professional or patient wants to be affected by. It sounds serious and can make both patients and uninformed nurses panic at the moment of hearing these two words, but that is far from the truth.

When you are a person who gets ongoing IV therapy treatments for any reason, a blown vein is something that could come up. The blown vein itself is harmless if not too severe. They will usually heal on their own within 10 to 12 days. Several factors can contribute to having a blown vein. Let’s see what they are, how to prevent them and how to treat a blown vein.

What is a Blown Vein and what are the Symptoms of a Blown Vein

blue veins on person's handsA blown vein happens when a vein has been ruptured by a needle while drawing blood or receiving IV treatment. Small leaks of blood and IV fluids can occur. The signs of a blown vein are easy to recognize. Symptoms usually happen quickly, and some of them are:

  • tenderness and pain at the site of the blown vein
  • stinging
  • swelling
  • blood and IV fluid leaking – which causes the skin to darken and bruise around the injection site.

Blown veins are usually called ruptured veins by doctors.

Collapsed Vein vs. Blown Vein

A blown vein is not the same as a collapsed vein. A collapsed vein can happen after a blown vein has swelled enough. It collapses and caves in towards itself to prevent blood flow from occurring. Blood flow resumes after the swelling has stopped. A collapsed vein can be permanent if the damage is severe enough.

Complications of a Blown Vein from IV

red blood cellsIf a collapsed vein occurs, receiving IV treatment to the rest of your body is impossible and can even be dangerous. There are two main complications that occur if the patient continues to receive IV treatment from a blown of collapsed vein:

Infiltration happens when the IV fluids start to seep in the surrounding tissue. When left unchecked and untreated, IV infiltration can result in pain, swelling, compartment syndrome, and even amputation of the affected limb.

Extravasation occurs when the leaked solution from infiltration is a vesicant drug, meaning one that causes tissue injury blisters or severe tissue damage. Injuries from this type of IV failure can be severe and can lead to the loss of function in an extremity, and if the damage is severe enough, tissue death – known as necrosis. The most common drugs that cause extravasation are chemotherapy medications.

Causes of a Blown Vein

bunch of syringesA blown vein is the most common medical occurrence in individuals who have to have blood drawn or receive any type of ongoing IV therapy concerning a chronic health condition. Multiple factors can contribute to a blown vein from IV:

  • A nurse or healthcare professional uses the wrong size needle while drawing blood.
  • When the needle goes into the vein at a wrong angle when first being inserted.
  • Moving the needle once embedded in the skin, “fishing” for the vein.
  • Vein damage, usually present in patients who use recreational drugs, are on an extensive IV therapy or chemotherapy treatment.
  • Thicker veins tend to roll, and a rolling vein is prone to blowing out on a patient.
  • The patient needs to stay completely still during the insertion of a vein and moving at all can cause problems with the vein.
  • Age plays a factor in causing a blown vein. As we get older, our veins become more fragile, thin, and easily moveable.

No one wants to be the victim of a blown vein, even though they usually heal completely. Listen to your body and if you feel a certain area on your arm is not a good place to draw blood or insert an IV, let your nurse know.

How to Treat a Blown Vein from IV

icebergOnce you know you have a blown vein, your healthcare professional will treat the area and make sure you are not at risk for any type of infection or other health issues.

If the issue is a bit more serious, then the IV will be removed, the area of the blown vein treated, and the IV treatment will be continued on the other arm. Also, the injured area will be assessed for signs of infiltration. For extravasation, a medical professional may also need to use an antidote before removing the needle to counteract the harmful effects of the medication that has leaked.

A blown vein from IV can be treated by applying a little pressure at the site of injection, this minimizes blood loss and swelling. After a few minutes the area needs to be cleaned with alcohol to prevent an infection. If a lot of swelling occurs, an ice pack can help to ease symptoms.

How to Treat a Blown Vein from IV at Home

For at-home treatment, patients can fasten their healing time by:

  • avoiding strenuous activity
  • applying cold packs, or ice wrapped in cloth, at regular intervals to reduce swelling
  • resting the affected limb.

How to Prevent a Blown Vein from IV

woman getting ready for blood workAnyone who has experienced a blown vein from IV in the past will be more vigilant in the future any time they have blood drawn or get any kind of IV treatment. If you are fearful, make sure to discuss your concerns with the person who is drawing your blood or inserting an IV. You have every right to ask questions and know if the person who is taking care of you is new or has been doing it for a while. In some cases, patients may ask for a seasoned nurse to handle their blood draws and IV insertions any time they require treatment.

Healthcare professionals can prevent blown veins by:

  • identifying the right veins for drawing blood or inserting a catheter
  • stabilizing the individual so that they cannot move the part of the body in which the healthcare professional will insert the needle
  • taking the time to prepare the vein for insertion
  • inserting the needle at a 15-to-30-degree angle
  • keeping the structure of the vein in mind as they advance the needle or catheter
  • using wound dressings that keep the site visible and watching for signs of a blown vein


A blown vein happens when a vein has been ruptured by an incorrect needle insertion while drawing blood or receiving IV treatment. It is generally a minor injury that heals on its own within a few days.

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