BACKGROUND: Before a meta-analysis by Hoffman et al was published, polyurethane dressings were used at insertion sites for peripheral i.v. catheters at our institution. On the basis of the results of the meta-analysis, we began to use gauze dressings. The change from polyurethane dressings to gauze dressings limited direct observation of the i.v. insertion site, and i.v. catheters were anecdotally reported not to be anchored as securely as before. OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of the use of transparent polyurethane dressings and gauze dressings at insertion sites for peripheral i.v. catheters on the frequency of phlebitis, infiltration, and catheter dislodgment by patients. METHODS: Two hundred twenty-nine patients were randomized to receive either gauze (n = 121) or transparent polyurethane (n = 108) dressings, and observations were recorded. RESULTS: The frequency of catheter dislodgment by the patient was significantly higher (P < .05) in patients with the gauze dressing (15%) than in patients with the transparent polyurethane dressing (6%). A trend toward lower frequencies of phlebitis (1.8% vs 3.3%) and infiltration (17.6% vs 20.7%) was noted in the patients with the transparent polyurethane dressings. DISCUSSION: The clinical advantages of the transparent polyurethane dressings lie in the ease of direct visualization of the i.v. insertion site and the securement of the i.v. catheter. CONCLUSION: At our institution, given the decreased disruption of the i.v. therapy with the transparent polyurethane dressings and the lack of differences in the rates of phlebitis or infiltration with the two types of dressings, we prefer to use transparent polyurethane rather than gauze dressings at insertion sites for peripheral i.v. catheters.

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