How Do I Administer an Intravenous Injection?

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  • Originally Written By: Kesha Ward
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 21 January 2019
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Administering an intravenous injection is something that’s usually easiest with at least rudimentary medical training, but almost anyone can get good results with the right equipment and an eye for precision. Intravenous injections, sometimes also called simply “IV injections,” work by delivering drugs or needed fluids directly into the bloodstream. One of the first things you’ll need to do is to prepare the site, commonly in the arm. You’ll need to look for a vein, clean the area, and apply pressure. When you’re ready to start the line, you’ll want to firmly but evenly insert the needle into the vein, usually at an angle, and secure it. You’ll also need to monitor the flow of fluids to make sure they aren’t moving too quickly or too slowly. Rare but serious complications can arise when air gets trapped in the line, as well; knowing what to watch for can help you avoid administration errors that could jeopardize the patient’s health.


IV Basics

An intravenous injection is a means of therapy and routine treatment for many different conditions, and a variety of drugs are given intravenously. In some cases, water, saline, or other fluids are used to address dehydration. IV injections are an important way of administering medical fluids, though getting the procedure right can be something of an art. In general, the substance or medication to be injected is stored in a clean syringe or bag that’s attached to the needle with thin plastic piping. The needle is then inserted into the patient's vein, most commonly on the top of the hand, on the wrist, or just inside the elbow.

Identifying a strong vein and getting the line going is the first step. Your job doesn’t end there, though; in most cases, IV administration also includes monitoring. You’ll need to be sure that the drip is going at the right speed and that it doesn’t contain air bubbles, and you’ll also need to swap bags or replenish fluids as needed.

Prepare the Site

Making sure that the area is clean and sterile is one of the easiest ways to prevent infection and other complications. It’s usually a good idea to start by cleaning the patient’s skin with alcohol or some other disinfectant. You’ll also want to apply pressure to help the veins fill with blood, which can make them more visible. A tourniquet is a common choice. Tying the tourniquet to the patient’s upper or mid-arm region can make the veins in the lower arm, wrist, and hand more evident, which can make insertion easier and also less painful.

Insert the Needle

Getting the needle inserted and the line started is usually the hardest part, and it often takes a bit of practice to get the motions right. In general, you’ll want to stick the patient with the needle in a swift, confident motion. Aim for a shallow angle of somewhere around 30°. With your other hand, pull the patient’s skin gently in the opposite direction from the needle insertion. A small amount of blood should enter the needle, which indicates that it is in the vein. Only then should you attach the IV fluids to the line, or turn them on if they’re on a valve system.

Monitor the Flow

If you have to administer an injection containing drugs or other fluids intravenously, the substance you will be injecting may be stored in a bag that is attached to a pole and hung slightly above the patient. The flow of the substance can usually be controlled by clips that are connected to the tube. If the clips are not manipulated, gravity will naturally force the liquid down and the substance will drip slowly toward the vein. If the clip is loosened, the flow will be increased, and the drugs or fluids can be administered more quickly.

Paying attention to the flow is really critical, since too much or too little can have negative consequences. It’s usually a good idea to check up on the patient from time to time, too, to be sure that everything is progressing as it should and also to see that the placement of the needle hasn’t shifted or loosened. In some cases it’s necessary to secure the needle with medical tape or a splint. This is particularly true with children and others who have a hard time staying still.

Avoiding Complications

You must be extremely careful when you administer an intravenous injection to avoid complications. Improper administration could result in an air embolism, which is when a large amount of air enters the patient's bloodstream. If IV fluids are given too quickly, the body may not be able to absorb them, leading to serious health problems. Needles that are not clean can sometimes lead to the transmission of diseases, including HIV and hepatitis, as well as infection.

It’s also really important that you pay close attention to the fluid you’re administering. Many clear bags look alike, but IVs are used for a lot of different things. Choosing the wrong fluid can have devastating consequences.


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Discuss this Article

Post 2

@Ruggercat68, I don't mind the injection as much as I mind having to walk around with a needle sticking in my arm. I had an IV drip injected in the back of my hand one time and if I moved that hand just a little bit, the flow would stop and an alarm would go off. A nurse would hear that alarm and reposition the needle, which was no fun at all for me. She once threatened to strap a small board to my wrist so I couldn't bend my hand at all. That usually doesn't happen if I get an IV in my arm.

Post 1

I get very anxious at the thought of getting an injection, so I try to let the nurse know how needlephobic I am before she starts the IV process. Most of the time, nurses will take their time and wait for a good vein to appear before they stick me. I hate it when a nurse misses the vein and has to do at least another stick. I'm just glad when it's over.

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