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Going home with a peripheral intravenous (IV) cannula

Read our guide below about going home with a peripheral intravenous (IV) cannula.

You can also download a PDF version of this patient information by following the link on the right.

Your doctor / consultant has decided to give you treatment through a peripheral intravenous (IV) cannula.

What is a peripheral IV cannula?

It’s a small flexible tube containing a needle that’s inserted into one of the small surface veins in the back of your hand or arm. The cannuala gives fluids and / or medications, for example antibiotics.

How are cannulas put in?

Either during your admission to hospital, at an outpatient clinic or at home by a specially trained nurse or doctor.

They’ll insert the cannula into the vein using a fine needle which is then removed. You may feel some discomfort as the needle goes in, but this should stop once the cannula is in place.

Your doctor or nurse will use a dressing to secure the cannula in place. They’ll insert a small amount of fluid into the canula to check it’s in the right place.

You’ll usually have an IV cannula inserted for the duration of your treatment as long as there is no redness or pain around it.

A nurse will assess the area around the cannula daily and may replace it earlier if necessary.

Looking after your IV cannula

Once in place, you must take care of your cannula to stop it from coming out or getting infected.

Keep the dressing clean and dry

Try to keep the dressing from getting wet. If the dressing starts to come away from the skin, try and secure it with tape until a nurse can apply a new dressing.

Protect it from knocks

Wear jewellery and watches on the opposite hand to prevent them catching the cannula. Make sure the protective dressing stays in place.

Wear loose clothing

Try to wear loose sleeves to make it easier while dressing and undressing, as cannulas can get caught on clothing.

Avoid bending

Try not to bend the wrist or elbow joint too much where the cannula is in place.

What to do if the cannula comes out

Your nurse or doctor will use a clear dressing to secure the IV cannula in place.

However, if the dressing does become loose and the cannula comes out, don’t worry but take the following steps.

If you’re an outpatient

We’ll give you an emergency kit (gauze and tape) to keep at home.

Step 1

Gently remove the loose dressing/cannula and put it to one side.

Step 2

Elevate your hand / arm and hold the gauze over the site where the cannula came out until any bleeding stops.

Step 3

Put some tape on the gauze to secure it in place.

Step 4

Contact the department administering your treatment as soon as possible to let them know. See the contact numbers below.

How is the IV cannula removed?

We’ll remove your cannula when your treatment is complete.

Removal is a relatively painless procedure. A nurse will remove the protective dressing and then the plastic tubing from your hand or arm.

They’ll put a small dressing over the area. This should remain in place for 2 hours.

Potential risks and complications

Every procedure carries potential risks and complications. This is a very simple, safe procedure with very little risk of complications.

You must tell your nurse or doctor straight away if you have:

  • continued pain around the site of the cannula
  • pain or discomfort when you have medication through the cannula
  • a burning sensation, swelling or redness around the site of the cannula
  • a raised temperature, feel feverish or shaky.

Baths and showers

You should avoid getting the cannula wet. When taking a bath or shower wrap clingfilm around the cannula to stop it getting wet. Do not soak your arm underwater. Always dab the dressing dry if it gets wet.

You should never go swimming with a cannula in place.

If you have any questions or are worried about your cannula

Contact the nurse or department where you’re getting your treatment. They’ll talk to you about your concerns and if necessary, check your IV cannula.

Never attempt to put anything into your cannula unless you’ve been specially trained by the department looking after your treatment.

How can I help reduce healthcare associated infections?

Infection prevention and control is important to the wellbeing of our patients so we have procedures in place. Keeping your hands clean is an effective way of preventing the spread of infections.

You, and anyone visiting you, must use the hand sanitiser available at the entrance to every ward before coming in and after you leave. You may need to wash your hands at the sink using soap and water. Hand sanitisers are not suitable for dealing with patients who have symptoms of diarrhoea.

More help or advice

Contact our patient advice and liaison service (PALS) on 01296 316042 or

About our patient information

We aim to make the information as up to date and accurate as possible, but please note that it’s subject to change. You must always check specific advice on any concerns you may have with your doctor.

Contact us

Times available

IV Therapy Nurse/OPAT

Bank Holidays (on call basis)

Same Day Emergency Care Unit (SDEC), Stoke Mandeville Hospital

Multidisciplinary Unit Day Assessment Service (MUDAS), Wycombe Hospital

Times available

8.30am to 4.30pm, 7 days a week

9am to 4.30pm

8am to 8pm, Mondays to Fridays and 8am to 5pm, Saturdays and Sundays

9am to 5pm, Mondays to Fridays


01296 315485 / 07810 181584

07810 181584

01296 418175

01494 426073