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Acad Emerg Med. 2004 Dec;11(12):1361-3.

Emergency nurses' utilization of ultrasound guidance for placement of peripheral intravenous lines in difficult-access patients.

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  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Medical College of Georgia, 1120 15th Street, AF-2037, Augusta, GA 30912-4007, USA.



Emergency nurses (ENs) typically place peripheral intravenous (IV) lines, but if repeated attempts fail, emergency physicians have to obtain peripheral or central access. The authors describe the patient population for which ultrasound (US)-guided peripheral IVs are used and evaluate the success rates for such lines by ENs.


This was a prospective observational study of ENs in a Level I trauma center with a census of 75,000, performing US-guided IV line placement on difficult-to-stick patients (repeated blind IV placement failure or established history). ENs were trained on an inanimate model after a 45-minute lecture. Surveys were filled out after each US-guided IV attempt on a patient. ENs could decline to fill out surveys, which recorded the reason for use of US, type of patient, and success. Successful cannulation was confirmed by drawing blood and flushing fluids. Descriptive statistics were used to evaluated data.


A total of 321 surveys were collected in a five-month period no ENs declined to participate. There were 280 (87%) successful attempts. Twelve (29%) of the 41 failure patients required central lines, 9 (22%) received external jugular IVs, and 20 (49%) had peripheral IV access placed under US guidance by another nurse or physician. Twenty-eight percent (90) of all patients were obese, 18% (57) had sickle cell anemia, 10% (31) were renal dialysis patients, 12% (40) were IV drug abusers, and 19% (61) had unspecified chronic illness. The remainder had no reason for difficult access given. There were four arterial punctures.


ENs had a high success rate and few complications with use of US guidance for vascular access in a variety of difficult-access patients.

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