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What is Intravenous Tubing?

By C.B. Fox
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Intravenous tubing, also called IV tubing, is the plastic conduit used to administer various fluids to patients through a needle inserted into one of the patient's veins. Blood or fluids enriched with electrolytes travel down the intravenous tubes from the IV bag to the patient’s vein. An important medical advancement, intravenous technologies allow treatments to be administered directly into a patient’s bloodstream on a continuous basis. Many of the tubes have various lines which allow patients to receive multiple treatments from the same intravenous line. The tubing itself is made from flexible yet strong plastics that do not interact with medications administered through the tubing.

Once a patient is hooked up to an intravenous line, multiple medications can be administered without the need to administer additional injections. Blood, medication and nutritional or electrolyte fluids can be administered in this manner. Various diversions in the intravenous tubing allow doctors to administer treatment from different intravenous bags or to give injections directly into the intravenous line. Bags of fluid or blood can also be changed without removing the hypodermic needle, which allows the patients to receive treatment continuously.

Polypropylene, nylon and dynaflex are some of the more common materials that intravenous tubing is made from. As plastics, these synthetic materials can be manufactured with particular qualities that make them ideal for this use. These materials used are flexible, strong, leak proof and do not react with the chemicals transported through them. Manufacturers of intravenous tubing can make tubes of various thicknesses and shapes according to the specifications given to them.

Advances in intravenous administration of medication in the 1800s led to the development of intravenous tubing. In 1855, Dr. Alexander Wood became the first person to use a hypodermic needle to inject medicine directly into a patient’s vein. In 1896, a French company, the H. Wulfing Luer Company, developed the Luer connection, allowing the head of a hypodermic needle to be easily attached and detached from a glass syringe. This connection, which is comprised of tapering male and female components, is still used today to attach various pieces in an intravenous line. These interlocking pieces allow doctors to change intravenous bags, add additional drip lines and attach the intravenous tubing to the needle in a patient’s vein with minimal discomfort to the patient.

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