IV Therapy Complications

-How to reduce adverse effects

-Managing cannula issues

-Ensuring IV safety is maintained 

What Is IV Therapy?

IV stands for “intravenous” or “inside the vein”. It means that the patient receives substances directly to their veins through a tube called a cannula. This could be either medication or nutrition.

Types of IV Therapy

  • IV Therapy for fluids
  • IV Therapy for blood transfusions
  • IV Therapy for medications
  • IV Therapy for nutrition

Reasons for Administering IV Therapy

IV Therapy is a common practice for administering fluids to dehydrated patients, medications, chemotherapy treatments, and blood transfusions.


Inflammation of the vein. It occurs when the cannula is too large for the vein or if it’s improperly secured. To prevent this, the caregiver should use the smallest needle possible suitable for the patient and fluid being administered.

Symptoms include:

  • Warmth
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Redness around the vein


When the liquid in the IV leaks to the tissue surrounding the vein. It can also be caused by inserting a cannula that’s too big for the patient.

Symptoms include:

  • Burning sensation
  • Swelling around the IV site

Air Embolism

When an air bubble (or air bubbles) enters the vein. It could be fatal if not caught early, since the air can travel to the person’s brain, heart, or lungs. The complication can be avoided by ensuring that the patient is properly hydrated and resting in a supine position when injecting and removing the IV line.

Symptoms include:

  • Blue hue of the patient’s skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Low blood pressure


An abnormal increase in blood volume. It’s more likely to happen in pregnant women, young children, elderly patients, or people with kidney problems.

The most common signs are:

  • Tachycardia (increased heart rate)
  • Distended neck veins


If the IV line, port, or skin on the site of injection are not properly cleaned prior to inserting the IV, the likelihood of infection increases. This can be prevented with proper sterilization and hygiene.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Fever

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