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Learning About I.V. Extravasation

What is I.V. extravasation?

Medicine and fluids are often given directly into a blood vessel through an I.V. (intravenous) tube, or catheter. Extravasation (say "ex-truh-vuh-SAY-shun") is leakage of fluid in the tissues around the I.V. site. It happens when the catheter has come out of the blood vessel but is still in the nearby tissue. It may also happen if the blood vessel leaks because it is weak or damaged. The fluids collect in the tissues around the I.V. site rather than staying in the blood vessel. The buildup of fluid can cause tissue damage at the site. The leakage also prevents the medicine or fluid from being sent into the bloodstream for treatment as intended.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of I.V. extravasation include:

  • Swelling around the I.V. site.
  • Pain. The amount of pain may depend on what type of medicine or fluid has leaked into the tissue.
  • Redness or a change in colour of the skin at the site.

How is it treated?

To treat I.V. extravasation, the nurse will remove the I.V. and clean the site. If needed, another I.V. will be inserted at a new site elsewhere on the body.

The I.V. site will be raised above the level of the body, if it's on the arm or leg. This keeps the fluid from pooling in one place and helps prevent tissue damage.

The I.V. site will be watched for signs of tissue damage or infection. With treatment, the swelling should go down day by day.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness or any change in colour.
    • Reddish streaks leading from the I.V. site.
    • Pus draining from the I.V. site.
    • A fever.
  • You have new or worse pain.
  • The swelling around your I.V. site is getting worse.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

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