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Flushing an IV Catheter

Image of syringe

Image of syringe

Image of syringe

Image of syringe

Image of syringe

Flush your IV catheter as directed by your doctor or health care provider. The specific flush procedure will be determined by the type and size of your catheter, your medication schedule, and your health care provider's policies and procedures. Also, IV flush procedures for infants and children will differ from those of adults.

Flush your IV catheter after each use, or once a day if not in use. Some catheters need only weekly flushing if not in use -- check with your health care provider. You will be told how much flush solution and what kind to use. Usually, the flush solution is normal saline (a sterile solution of salt and water). If instructed, also flush with a heparin solution after the second saline flushing. The heparin solution is used to help keep the catheter from clotting.

First, clean your hands with soap and running warm water or alcohol based hand rub or gel:

1. Fill a syringe — if you are not using a pre-prepared or pre-filled syringe

  • Uncap a new bottle of the prescribed flush, or use an alcohol pad or antimicrobial/antiseptic swab to clean the rubber stopper on a bottle that’s already open.

  • Draw the syringe plunger back up to the amount of saline or heparin you need, filling the syringe with that amount of air. Uncap the needle or needeless device and insert it into the stopper. Push the plunger in all the way.

  • Turn the bottle upside down, draw back on the plunger and withdraw the prescribed amount of solution. Typically, the amount is 3 cc (cubic centimeters), but may be more or less depending on your specific situation.

2. Remove air from the syringe

  • Hold the syringe with the needle or needleless device pointing up. Flick or tap the syringe. Any large bubbles should rise to the surface.

  • Slowly push in the plunger until a tiny drop of saline or heparin comes out the needle. Replace the cap of the needle or needleless device. That way the needle or needleless device will remain sterile when you put it down.

3. Wipe the port

  • To reduce the risk of germs entering the IV line, wipe the port with alcohol pad.

4. Inject saline or heparin

  • Open the catheter clamp. Uncap the needle or the needleless device . Insert it into the injection port.

  • Flush the catheter. Push the plunger in slowly and smoothly. Do not force.

5. Finish flushing

  • Close the catheter clamp just before the syringe becomes empty. This stops blood from flowing back into the catheter. Note: Some catheters may not need clamps.

  • Remove the needle or needleless device and syringe from the injection port.

  • Place the used equipment in a sharps box.

6. When to seek medical care

Notify your health care provider if you experience any of the following near the injection site:

  • Redness

  • Swelling

  • Tenderness

  • Drainage

  • Pain while flushing


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