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J Vasc Access. 2014 Nov-Dec;15(6):514-8. doi: 10.5301/jva.5000282. Epub 2014 Aug 29.

Association between multiple IV attempts and perceived pain levels in the emergency department.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University and Hospitals, Philadelphia, PA - USA.



Intravenous (IV) access is the most commonly performed procedure in the emergency department (ED). Patients with difficult venous access require multiple needlesticks (MNS) for successful IV cannulation and may experience increased pain with many attempts.


To determine the association between number of IV attempts and overall pain experienced by the patient from IV placement.


Cross-sectional observational study on consecutive patients undergoing IV placement with a 20-gauge IV in the upper extremity in an urban academic hospital. Exclusion criteria included refusal to participate or fully complete all survey questions. The total number of IV attempts and patient pain scores marked on a standardized visual analog scale was recorded. Mean pain scores of two groups, single needlestick (SNS) and MNS, were compared using Student's t-test.


A total of 760 patients were approached, of whom 31 were excluded, leaving 729 patients in the analysis; 556 with SNS (76%) and 173 with MNS (24%). The mean pain score (95% CI) was 51 mm (46-55 mm) for the MNS group and 25 mm (23-28 mm) for the SNS group, p<0.001. Compared to patients who underwent one IV attempt, patients with two and three attempts had an average 19 mm and 33 mm increase in pain scores, respectively, with the highest average pain associated with five attempts. A total of 58% of MNS patients rated IV placement as the most painful experience while in the ED.


Patients experience increased pain in association with multiple IV attempts.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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