Peripheral Intravenous Catheter

A peripheral intravenous (PIV) catheter is a plastic tube that is inserted into a vein. A PIV catheter can be inserted into a vein in the:

  • Hands.

  • Arms.

  • Feet.

  • Scalp veins of babies.

A PIV catheter is used to give things like:

  • Fluids.

  • Antibiotics.

  • Liquid medicine.

  • Blood products.


  • Inflammation of the vein (phlebitis). The vein with the PIV catheter may become warm, swollen, and tender. A red streak in the vein may also be seen.

  • Medicine leaking into the tissue around the PIV catheter site (infiltration). This can cause swelling, pain, and tissue injury in the vein.

  • Infection.

  • Problems with the PIV catheter due to:

  • The type of medicine given through the PIV catheter.

  • The location where the PIV catheter is placed.

  • The PIV catheter becoming dislodged. This may happen due to loose tape or the PIV catheter being pulled.

  • Medical conditions that may influence how long a PIV catheter lasts. People with diabetes may have problems with a PIV catheter as a result of how diabetes affects the structure of the vein.


  • Inform your caregiver if you have a hemodialysis shunt or fistula, or you have had a mastectomy or axillary node dissection.

  • When a vein has been chosen for the PIV catheter, the skin will be cleaned with a germ cleanser. This helps reduces the amount of germs on the skin.

  • A topical numbing medicine can be placed on the skin before a PIV catheter is started. This can help decrease the pain when the PIV catheter is started.

  • An elastic band (tourniquet) will be temporarily wrapped around the skin just above the selected vein. This helps enlarge the vein so it is easier to insert the PIV catheter.

  • A needle in the PIV catheter is then inserted through the skin and into the vein. After the PIV catheter is inserted into the vein, the needle is taken out and the hollow, plastic tube remains. The tourniquet is then taken off.

  • The PIV catheter is flushed with a liquid called normal saline. This is done to make sure the PIV catheter works.

  • Clear plastic tape or an anchor securement device is used to hold the PIV catheter in place.


  • A PIV catheter needs to be changed every 3 to 4 days. This is done to avoid infection.

  • Do not get the PIV catheter bandage (dressing) wet. Your caregiver can wrap the PIV catheter if you want to take a shower.

  • Do not pull on the PIV catheter or tubing. This can dislodge the PIV catheter from the vein.


  • You have pain, redness, swelling, or leakage where the PIV catheter is located.

  • The dressing or tape is loose on your PIV catheter.

  • The PIV catheter falls out.

  • The PIV catheter or tubing was pulled.