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Haemostasis. 1999;29(5):247-54.

Infusion phlebitis in post-operative patients: when and why.

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Servicios de CirugĂ­a General, Medicina Interna y EpidemiologĂ­a, Hospital Universitari Germans Trias i Pujol de Badalona, Spain.



The most common complication of intravenous therapy is infusion phlebitis. This study was done to prospectively assess its frequency in a series of consecutive patients who will undergo surgery, and to identify which variables may predict an increased risk for phlebitis.


400 consecutive patients who will undergo surgery in a general surgery department were included. Only the first catheter, inserted the day before surgery, was taken into account. Eighteen variables (from the infusion, the catheter and from the patient) were prospectively evaluated for their contribution to the occurrence of phlebitis.


60/400 patients (15%) developed phlebitis, and most of them needed insertion of a further catheter. The univariate analysis showed that patients who developed phlebitis were older, and their pre-operative levels of both blood haemoglobin and neutrophil cound were significantly higher than those in patients who did not develop phlebitis. However, the multivariate analysis only confirmed the association with blood haemoglobin levels: the risk of phlebitis sharply increased in the patients with the highest haemoglobin levels. As to the influence of time on phlebitis development, there was a significant decrease in the day-specific risk, from the 5th day on.


In our series, blood haemoglobin levels were found to be the only variable associated to a higher risk of phlebitis. Besides, in contrast with the recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control, no significant increase in the day-specific risk of phlebitis was found. Thus, a guideline to select the type of catheter to be inserted in an individual patient is suggested.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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