Intravenous (IV) Line or Catheter

What is an intravenous (IV) line or catheter?

Note that the words "line" and "catheter" are often used to mean the same thing by the medical staff. A catheter is a hollow, flexible tube used to either drain fluid (e.g., urine or excess fluid) from a body cavity or provide fluid (e.g., blood, drugs, or nutrients) to the body. Intravenous means "within a vein or veins", so an IV line or catheter is always used in a vein. An IV line or catheter, which is placed in one of the patient's veins, connects to IV tubing, which in turn connects to an IV bag containing the blood, fluid, nutrients, or medication to be supplied. Sometimes doctors and nurses refer to this entire system as an IV line or catheter, or just as an "IV".

Do IV catheters hurt?

Yes, when they are inserted. The doctor numbs the area with an anesthetic before placing the catheter. Once it is in place, it should not hurt.

How long is an IV catheter used?

The amount of time that an IV catheter remains in a patient varies and may depend upon the patient's condition. The ICU staff monitors the catheter closely and removes it when it is no longer needed. Occasionally, the catheter may need to be replaced.

Are there any potential complications associated with IV catheters?

Bleeding and infection are rare complications associated with IV catheters.

Central IV line or catheter, made by Arrow Medical, in the subclavian vein