In critical care, the short peripheral intravenous catheter is an essential venous access route, often used in emergency situations to administer high-risk medications and fluid resuscitation. This route of administration is generally viewed as routine and benign. However, a growing body of evidence indicates that the risks inherent to this route are much higher than reported and represent a significant area of patient harm. Few standardized definitions and surveillance methods exist for peripheral intravenous catheter–related complications such as phlebitis, bloodstream infection, and extravasation. Recommendations for peripheral intravenous catheter replacement are based on clinical indications rather than routine replacement, so standards of practice for catheter insertion and management must be consistently applied. This article reviews recent studies that challenge the need for central catheter placement for vasopressor therapy, current knowledge of peripheral intravenous catheter–related adverse events, and evidence-based standards of care for short peripheral intravenous catheter insertion and maintenance.
The most common invasive procedure performed in the hospital setting worldwide is the insertion of a peripheral intravenous catheter. Although use of peripheral intravenous access is common, its presence is far from benign, with a reported 35% to 50% failure rate, even in facilities with a dedicated infusion team. Significant complications related to the presence of a peripheral intravenous site include localized infection, bacteremia, phlebitis, and infiltration or extravasation. Consistent application of evidence-based standards of practice in all aspects of peripheral intravenous catheter care is essential to provide infusion therapy that delivers safe and quality care. Management of peripheral intravenous access in the complex setting of critical care is examined in this article. A case study approach is used to illustrate application of infusion therapy standards of practice in peripheral intravenous catheter insertion, indications for catheter placement, and assessment parameters to enhance early recognition of peripheral intravenous access–related complications.