Common Complications on IV Therapy That You Should Be Aware Of

Intravenous therapy, or IV therapy, is a therapeutic treatment that involves the administration of a solution into a vein. Another term for IV therapy is “blood therapy” and dates as far back as the ancient days when leeches were used to suck out poison or illness from a person. Officially, IV therapy began around the 17th century, although at that time the results were questionable and were serious complications that led medical experts to abandon the idea.

IV therapy reemerged around the 19th century because of the cholera epidemic but was only used on the most critically ill patients. It was only when blood typing became acceptable in the 20th century that IV therapy was confirmed as a lifesaving and therapeutic plan, especially in fighting infectious agents in the body.

Today, there are three kinds of IV therapy: fluid, blood, or drugs. The fluid-based IV therapy is used to rehydrate the body. Blood-based IV therapy is done to replace lost blood while drug IV therapy is given to a person who cannot orally take medicine, may need pain relievers or antibiotics to prevent infections.

IV Therapy Risks and Complications

No matter what the type, IV therapy has its share of risks. Here are the most common of them that will emphasize the need for a trained professional nurse who can oversee and act decisively should any of these risks occur.

Infiltration and Extravasations – This risk happens when there is a leakage. In infiltration, the leak can come from the catheter insertion site or because the catheter was dislodged. It will cause swelling if the fluid is toxic and is exposed to soft tissue. Extravasations is a leak from a vein causing a vesicant or blistering agent around the site which will destroy tissue and cause the patient to feel pain. In both leaking cases, a well-trained and experienced nurse would know precisely how to react and what procedure to follow to stop the leak. This nurse can apply a compress or request for approval to move the location of the insertion. The recommendation would be based on the assessment of the leak, policy of the home health care agency, and doctor’s advice.

Hematoma – This is another leak but of blood from a vein to the soft tissue. This can happen if there is lack of pressure during catheter removal or when the catheter goes through a vein wall.  While this is usually a low-risk complication, the right treatment is necessary. There are some cases when hematomas can be treated with ice compress or elevation, but there are other cases when medical intervention is required.

Air embolism – This happens when an air bubble enters the vein through the catheter, and it is a serious situation because it can cause a blockage. This is why a trained eye is needed during IV transfer.

Phlebitis and Thrombophlebitis – This happens when a vein becomes inflamed due to a blood clot and usually happens when the patient has had the IV for several straight days.

When you get your home IV therapist, do ensure they have adequate experience and training, especially in the area of being able to anticipate a complication.