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What Are the Different Types of Intravenous Drips?

By T. Carrier
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Intravenous drips help medical professionals deliver medications and other important fluids into a patient’s body. The devices are typically inserted into veins, thus the name intravenous therapy or IV therapy. Intravenous drips come in two major varieties: central and peripheral. Methods of distribution for IV drips include infusion pumps, needles, and catheters.

General classifications of IV drip lines consist of central IV lines or peripheral IV lines. The former type injects intravenous fluids into large veins such as the ones found in the chest or stomach, whereas peripheral lines are pushed into smaller arteries like those found along the surface of the skin. Major lines are generally used when substances must reach the heart quickly, when multiple substances must be delivered, or when substances are deemed too harsh for minor veins. Peripheral lines, on the other hand, are generally easier to implement and carry a smaller risk of infection or bleeding.

Types of intravenous drip and vein connections vary as well. Hypodermic needles represent one common type of object for helping create intravenous drips. These needles are long, narrow, and hollow, and they are usually inserted into the arm. They may be connected to a syringe that contains the actual intravenous solution. The needles may also attach to tubes that in turn connect to an IV drip machine.

IV drip tubes are typically called catheters. They may be affixed to a major vein and run through the body until they reach one of the primary heart veins. In contrast, when the drip is connected to a Hickman line, the catheter runs just underneath the skin. One type frequently used in hospitals is the peripheral cannula, in which a bendable plastic catheter is secured to a piece of metal that is disposed of once the tube has been inserted.

Physicians may also occasionally place a miniature medicine storage system inside the skin. This small system connects to an intravenous line. Medicine is then pumped into the system through a needle.

For most drips, however, outside infusion pumps are used as the fluid storage devices. These sanitized containers, usually bags, release fluid in singular drops. They also contain tubes and clamps to regulate flow. In some cases, a device called a rapid infuser circles and squeezes the container so that the flow rate of the IV substance is increased. Some conditions, however, necessitate that intravenous drips only administer medication at specific time intervals. Systems using this form of administration are known as intermittent infusion IV drips.

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Discussion Comments
By anon937636 — On Mar 06, 2014

When I was in the hospital for a bladder operation and check up (every year for the past five years) they use keflin to put me to sleep, I have found during this time if I eat chilies, I would get left side lower back pain all the way down my leg sciatic pain tingling in both feet. I was crippled by it for weeks, and also after eating green broad beans I would get a red, itchy rash over my torso late at night.

I don't think it was the drip. They have only used it two times when operating on my bladder. After that for five years, they only used keflin, and I could not touch chilies. Over a year after my final check up I can now eat chilies without sciatic pain. I also had this neurological problem and my neurologist could not find anything wrong, then I discovered by accident it was garlic which is a very potent neurotoxin and destroys brain cells. I almost blamed hospital for it. Just an idea how many poor doctors are blamed for somebody’s wrong diet.

By SarahGen — On Aug 17, 2012

@feasting-- Sorry to hear about your dog, but I'm glad she's fine now.

I saw a few dogs on intravenous infusion therapy at the veterinarian before. They weren't trying to rip out their IVs. One of them was a bit fidgety though and the vet checked on her often and petted her to keep her calm and still. It worked quite well.

And the intravenous drip was taped securely with medical bandage around the dog's arm so that she wouldn't be able to pull it out. Aside from this, everything else about the IV was the same as the ones I had seen at a regular hospital. I think the IV bags were a little smaller though.

By ysmina — On Aug 16, 2012

@anamur-- The butterfly needle is called a butterfly catherer. And from your description, it was also a peripheral cannula. I've also received intravenous infusions this way.

The good part about this type of insertion and catherer is that once it's in place, you can leave it in and administer medications as necessary. This way, nurses and doctors don't have to keep entering veins over and over again. Plus, it's not possible to enter the same vein twice, so this type of an IV drip is great when long term treatment is necessary.

I received pain relievers this way for several days at the hospital after a major surgery. The catherer remained in place the whole time. I was constantly on IV and when it was time for medication, they just added it to the IV bag.

By Perdido — On Aug 15, 2012

@giddion – Having an IV drip at such a young age is scary. I had to have one inserted before my CT scan when I was ten, and I remember screaming in fear more than in pain.

They had to deliver the dye to my body intravenously. It would enable them to see my insides on the scan.

I had a fear of needles back then, and it took two nurses to hold me down while the other one administered the IV drip. The only way they got me to be still for the scan was by telling me that if I squirmed around, I might rip the needle out of my skin.

By serenesurface — On Aug 15, 2012

I was recently hospitalized for food poisoning and received antibiotics and nausea medications through an intravenous drip. I'm not sure which type it was but it was inserted into a vein in my hand. The needle was really interesting. It looked like a butterfly.

Once the nurse entered the vein in my hand, she pulled back the actual needle part of the instrument and the little plastic piece through which the fluid entered was left in my hand. The nurse taped it on my hand like that and it stayed this way until the IV fluids were finished.

It hurt a little bit while the needle was going in but it didn't hurt after that. The IV worked so quickly though. I was still vomiting when they put it in, and in just ten minutes, my nausea stopped and I started feeling so much better.

By feasting — On Aug 14, 2012

My dog had to have IV fluids when she had kidney problems. She stayed at the vet's office for five days, and when I came to visit her, I saw that she had an IV needle inserted near her shoulder blade.

The vet said that she needed her kidneys flushed, because toxins had built up in them and made her sick. Her kidneys weren't filtering properly, but after a week on IV fluids, she was back to normal.

It must be tough to keep an IV in a dog for that long. I wonder if she tried to rip it out at all. She was feeling rather poorly, so it is possible that she just laid around and let them do whatever they needed to her.

By giddion — On Aug 13, 2012

I received a peripheral intravenous drip when I was in the hospital with rotavirus at age 9. I was having such severe diarrhea and vomiting that I nearly dehydrated myself before my parents could get me to the hospital.

The nurse stuck a needle in near my wrist, and a catheter was attached to it. It hurt, but at the time, so did everything else, so I don't think that I fought her too hard.

I had to be attached to it all week. If I went to the bathroom, the drip went with me. After awhile, I didn't even notice it was there, though, unless I got out of bed for something.

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