What Are Intravenous Sites?

C. Webb

Intravenous sites are locations on the body in which intravenous medications and therapies are introduced by needles and tubes. For example, a dehydrated individual requiring intravenous hydration will typically have saline solutions dripped into an intravenous site in the vein just below the inside of the elbow. Intravenous means entering through a vein; therefore, sites are always located within accessibility of a vein. Drips and specialty pharmaceuticals are other names for intravenous treatments.

An intravenous drip.
An intravenous drip.

Medical professionals also consider how fast or slow the medication needs to enter the body in choosing intravenous sites. Larger veins are able to handle a faster flow of medication or saline solution than smaller veins can handle. For medications requiring speedy entry, sites near elbows, groins, and necks are used. When a slow drip is appropriate, sites near smaller veins are used. The back of the hand is a typical intravenous site for slow, consistent drip needs.

Hanging IV bag of saline solution.
Hanging IV bag of saline solution.

Training is needed to properly choose and use intravenous therapy, although intravenous drug users often teach themselves how to inject drugs to their veins. Several factors, including rate of the fluid flowing, size of needle used, and best site for the job, all come into play for choosing sites. Care should be taken to maintain sterile conditions when preparing and using the site.

A woman getting an intravenous infusion.
A woman getting an intravenous infusion.

When patients have severe edema, burns, or lacerations at typically used intravenous sites, other sites must be chosen. Too much swelling at a site can prevent the fluid from entering the body. In addition, the chosen site must be constantly monitored for signs of infections, swelling, or other problems that create additional medical issues. When the needle is removed, the site is usually covered with a bandage to help prevent infection.

A person with an intravenous line in her hand.
A person with an intravenous line in her hand.

Intravenous sites that are part of the arms, hands, legs, or feet are called peripheral sites. When introducing needles to these sites, a tourniquet is used above the site to encourage veins to become more visible. The needle is inserted at the site and once under the skin, slipped into the vein. A tube is then placed at the outside end of the needle so fluids can be sent through the site.

Tourniquets are commonly used to enlarge the veins of the arm before insert a needle.
Tourniquets are commonly used to enlarge the veins of the arm before insert a needle.

Patients who must have long-term intravenous therapies, such as chemotherapy, often receive a port. Ports are surgically implanted already in the vein. The port is capped to avoid air from entering the bloodstream. Health-care professionals provide chemotherapy and other medications through the port during office visits. Ports protect sites from infection and damage that can occur when the site is constantly being injured through the introduction of new needles.

An I.V. solution bag can be used to dispense drugs to a patient over a period of time.
An I.V. solution bag can be used to dispense drugs to a patient over a period of time.

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