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Going home with a saline lock: Care instructions

Going Home with a Saline Lock

Care instructions

Adapted from Lexicomp and UpToDate Patient Handouts: Saline Lock, by Lippincott Advisor, 2020. Copyright 2023 by Lippincott.

If you’ve been to an emergency department or urgent care centre and will need more medicine through an intravenous (I.V.), you may get a saline lock before you go home.

A saline lock is a type of I.V. It allows you to go home in between getting your next dose of I.V. medicine.

Saline is a mix of salt and water. It helps prevent the I.V. from getting blocked with a blood clot. It’s called a saline lock because a small cap or short section of tubing is placed at the end of the catheter (the thin, sterile tube part of the I.V.) to keep the saline inside. Do not remove the cap or tubing.

You’ll have a saline lock for as long as you need medicines through an I.V. Your healthcare team will let you know how long this will be.

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

The healthcare team will let you know if you need go back to the same emergency department or urgent care centre, or if you need to go to an I.V. clinic to get your next dose of medicine.

The healthcare team will let you know how often you need to return to the emergency department, urgent care centre, or I.V. clinic for your next dose of medicine. It might be every 8, 12, or 24 hours.

Bring your Alberta Personal Health Card with you each time you return.

What will happen at each visit?

A member of the healthcare team will check your I.V. and the area of the skin around the I.V. (called the I.V. site) each time you get I.V. medicine.

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

How do I care for the I.V. at home?

Keep the I.V. site clean and dry, following the directions that the healthcare team gives you.

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 I.V. comes out or the cap comes off?

If the catheter comes out all the way out, put firm, direct pressure over the I.V. site for 2 to 5 minutes to stop bleeding. Don’t peek at it. Keep pressure on the site at least 2 to 5 minutes.

If the cap comes off, replace the cap with clean hands and let your healthcare team know at your next visit.

If the I.V. has come out, get to your next appointment at least 1 hour early. This gives the healthcare team extra time to restart your I.V. before you need the next dose of medicine.

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

When should I get help?

Call 911 if you:

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

Go to the emergency department or call the I.V. clinic if:

  • the I.V. site is red, feels hot, or hurts
  • you have a reaction to the medicine, such as a rash, hives, or feel itchy
  • the catheter falls out and you cannot stop the bleeding after 5 minutes of continuous, firm, direct pressure

To see this information online and learn more, visit MyHealth.Alberta.ca/health/pages/conditions.aspx?Hwid=custom.ab_vascularaccess_normalsalinelock_ac.

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

Current as of: November 28, 2023

Author: Emergency Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services

This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.