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Br J Nurs. 2008 Jul 24-Aug 13;17(14):896, 898-901.

IV therapy: recognizing the differences between infiltration and extravasation.

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The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, Surrey.


Infiltration and extravasation are complications that can occur during intravenous therapy administered via either peripheral or central venous access devices. Both can result in problems with the siting of future venous access devices, nerve damage, infection and tissue necrosis. The nurse is the key to reducing the risk of infiltration and extravasation, through her knowledge and skill in cannulation and the intravenous administration of drugs (by bolus injection or infusion). The nurse must also be able to recognize the early signs and symptoms of infiltration and extravasation and act promptly and effectively to limit tissue damage. The first sign of possible leakage of drugs into the tissues is pain and discomfort, so patients must be informed of what symptoms to look out for and be asked to report any change in sensation as soon as they are aware of it. Finally, accurate documentation of the event is vital to facilitate patient care and in case of litigation.

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