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Learning About IV Extravasation

What is IV extravasation?

Medicine and fluids are often given directly into a blood vessel through an IV (intravenous) tube, or catheter. Extravasation (say "ex-truh-vuh-SAY-shun") is leakage of fluid in the tissues around the IV 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 IV 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 IV extravasation include:

  • Swelling around the IV site.
  • Pain. The amount of pain may depend on what type of medicine or fluid has leaked into the tissue.
  • Redness of the skin at the site.

How is it treated?

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

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

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.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the IV site.
    • Pus draining from the IV site.
    • A fever.
  • You have new or worse pain.
  • The swelling around your IV 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.

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