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The Idle Intravenous Catheter

Frank A. Lederle, MD; Connie M. Parenti, MD; Lisa C. Berskow, BA; and Kathleen J. Ellingson, PharmD
[+] Article and Author Information

Requests for Reprints: Frank A. Lederle, MD, Department of Medicine (111-0), Minneapolis Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, One Veterans Drive, Minneapolis, MN 55417.

Current Author Addresses: Dr. Lederle: Department of Medicine (111-0), Minneapolis Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, One Veterans Drive, Minneapolis, MN 55417.

Dr. Parenti and Ms. Berskow: Department of Medicine (111), Minneapolis Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, One Veterans Drive, Minneapolis, MN 55417.

Dr. Ellingson: Pharmacy Service (119), Minneapolis Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, One Veterans Drive, Minneapolis, MN 55417.


Ann Intern Med. 1992;116(9):737-738. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-116-9-737
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Objective: To assess the prevalence of idle peripheral intravenous (IV) catheters (those without any therapeutic use) on regular-care medical wards.

Design: Observation, interviews, and chart review.

Setting: A university-affiliated VA medical center.

Patients: All 959 inpatients on 4 regular-care medical wards during a 6-week period, including 484IV catheter episodes and 2983 patient-days of IV catheter use.

Main Outcome Measure: Idle IV catheter use.

Results: Thirty-five percent of all IV catheter episodes (95% Cl, 32% to 38%) had 2 or more consecutive idle days. In only 6 of these (1%) could a specific reason for the catheter be determined. Seventeen percent of all patients on regular-care medical wards (Cl, 15% to 19%) had an idle IV catheter for 2 or more consecutive days. Twenty percent of all patient-days of IV catheter use were idle (Cl, 19% to 21%).

Conclusions: Our data suggest that IV are frequently used unnecessarily. Future efforts to reduce IV catheter complication rates should focus on reducing unnecessary use as well as on improving techniques to reduce infection rates when use is appropriate.

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