A continuous intravenous (IV) drip is a medical procedure in which a liquid substance is directly dripped into a vein over time through a tube and needle inserted into the skin. A sealed device called a drip chamber controls the process so the substance slowly flows into the vein, without any chance of air entering the bloodstream. Air introduced into the bloodstream can create serious health problems and can even be fatal.
An intravenous drip, also called an IV drip, is commonly associated with long-term treatments, but it is also used as a short-term method to rehydrate a patient or give them medicine or nutrients to revitalize them. It's a very efficient process to quickly supply the entire body with prescribed medicine. IV drips are routinely used in hospitals as well as in clinics and doctor’s offices that prepare patients for admittance to hospitals.
There are two common types of lines used for intravenous drips. A peripheral intravenous drip line is used to access peripheral veins, or those located anywhere except the abdomen or chest. The other is used in the right atrium of the heart or in areas adjacent to the heart. It is referred to as a central intravenous drip line.
A peripheral IV line is normally inserted into a vein on the arm or hand. Leg and foot veins are rarely used, as their locations make access impractical. The veins in the scalp are commonly used for infants requiring an IV. To insert a peripheral IV line, the needle first is inserted into a vein, covered by a plastic mount and enclosed in a hollow metal cylinder. The needle is properly placed inside the vein and secured by the exterior plastic mount. The metal guide is then withdrawn and discarded.
A central IV line, or catheter, is inserted directly into the right atrium of the heart or into one of the two adjacent chest cavities. This type of IV is preferred for substances that may be irritating to peripheral veins because of their chemical content or level of concentration. Unlike peripheral IVs, a central IV is capable of simultaneously transporting several different substances into the body at one time. This is accomplished by filling multiple sections of the inserted catheter with different medicines or supplements.
With either method, complications may arise if the needles are not properly and securely inserted or if a vein leaks blood due to weakness or a puncture. Veins often collapse or become inaccessible if repeated IV procedures are performed. In these cases, veins in other parts of the body are used for IV access.