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Going Home with a Saline Lock

Care instructions

​​If you’ve been to an emergency department and need medicine through an intravenous (IV), you may get a saline lock before you go home.

A saline lock is a type of IV. It allows you to go home in between getting your next dose of IV medicine. It also allows you or someone else to give you IV medicine at home. It doesn’t have the tubing, IV bag, and pole.

Saline is a mix of salt and water. It helps prevent the IV from getting blocked with a blood clot. It’s called a saline lock because a small cap is placed at the end of the catheter (the thin, sterile tube part of the IV) to keep the saline inside.

You’ll have a saline lock for as long as you need to take medicines through an IV. Your doctor will let you know how long this will be.

Where do I go when I need the next dose of IV medicine?

The healthcare team will let you know if you need go back to the same emergency department or go to an IV clinic to get your next dose of medicine.

They may also show how you to give yourself another dose at home or arrange for you to have home care.

The healthcare team will let you know how often you need the next dose of IV medicine, such as every 8, 12, or 24 hours.

If you’re coming to the emergency department or to a clinic, bring your Alberta Personal Health Card with you each time.

What will happen at each visit?

A nurse will check your IV and the area of the skin around the IV (called the IV site) each time you get IV medicine.

If you have a wound, a doctor or nurse may take off your dressing or splint to see how it’s healing.

How do I care for the IV at home?

Keep the IV site clean and dry. Use rubber gloves or put a plastic bag around the IV site when you shower, wash dishes, or do other things that may get it wet.

It’s OK if there is a small amount of blood or an air bubble in the tubing. This won’t hurt you.

What do I do if the IV comes out?

If the IV comes partly out or all the way out, it will be the catheter part. If it comes out all the way out, put pressure over the site for 2 minutes to stop bleeding. Don’t peek at it and keep pressure on it for the full 2 minutes.

If you’re getting the next dose of IV medicine at the emergency department or IV clinic, be there at least 1 hour early. This gives the healthcare team extra time to restart your IV before you need the next dose.

If home care is coming to give you the next dose, they will likely be able to restart your IV.

If you’re giving the IV medicine to yourself, don’t give yourself the next dose. Go to the emergency department or clinic to have the IV restarted before you need the next dose.

When should I get help?

Call 911 if you:

  • you feel like your tongue or throat is swelling
  • are having trouble breathing

Go to the emergency department or call the clinic if:

  • the IV site is red, feels hot, or hurts
  • you have a reaction to the medicine, such as a rash, hives, or feel itchy

For 24/7 nurse advice and general health information call Health Link at 811.

Current as of: October 5, 2020

Author: Emergency Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services