When IV Insertions Go Wrong

Last updated: February 2022

Let me state the obvious: getting an IV is not fun. I have had probably hundreds of IVs inserted into my body since being diagnosed with Crohn's in 2009 and it never gets easier. However, the absolute worst feeling is when the nurse cannot get the IV inserted properly. I am sure there are many patients out there who have experienced the pain and struggle of someone "fishing" for their vein, blowing current IVs, or having their medication infiltrate the vein upon starting.

An extremely painful IV infusion

I recently had an Entyvio IV infusion and the nurse was unsuccessful in finding a vein. I have a "go-to" vein where all of my blood work is taken and IVs are inserted, so she started there. As soon as the Entyvio began entering my vein, I experienced great pain in my forearm and hands. She suggested it might have been because I did not take the medication out of the refrigerator prior to her arrival, which meant it was too cold going through my veins. I tried to withstand the pain, but after a couple of minutes, I asked her to remove it and try somewhere else.

She proceeded to attempt one in my forearm, my hand, and the opposite elbow, each one either blowing or "rolling" as she tried to insert the needle. And each time, she tried "fishing" for the vein (which has never worked in my personal experience), only leading to more pain and further bruising later in the day. 

We both decided that going back to the original IV location (which she left in just in case she couldn't find another vein) was the best course of action to infuse the medication. The pain resumed, but I committed to continue the infusion because I did not want to be poked again. Less than 5 minutes later, the nurse pointed out that my arm was swelling, which meant that the IV had infiltrated and my Entyvio was not going into the vein at all. 

I felt like a pincushion

She then asked if I would like her to try one more time since the medication was already mixed and had a short shelf life, and I obliged just so we could get this ordeal over with as quickly as possible. To no one's surprise, the last vein she tried blew and I was left in pain with 5 bandages on both arms and hands, a swollen forearm, and no Entyvio in my body.

This was the first time in 10 years that I had an issue with an IV, but it brought back such painful memories of laying in a hospital bed, sick and weak only to be somebody's pincushion. There had been multiple times that I would plead with the nurse, tears in my eyes, and ask for her to send someone else in who could find a vein. And, the more I was stuck with the needle, the more my pain tolerance decreased to a point where just the thought of the needle made me shutter. 

Crohn's is already painful enough

As if we weren't suffering enough with a Crohn's flare, not finding a vein or blowing through one because of dehydration (or just poor veins) is enough to send anyone over the edge both mentally and physically.

Fortunately, my Entyvio infusion story ends on a higher note. Since the medication was already mixed, another nurse had to do the infusion that day so that it wasn't wasted, but she was trained in using ultrasound to locate the vein. Despite needing two attempts, she was successful in finding a vein that was strong enough to withstand the medication and my infusion was a success. 

To all of those who have had bad experiences with IVs, my heart goes out to you, and I apologize if this article brought back painful memories, but this is just another "side effect" of Crohn's that not many people talk about, nor can others understand unless they are also members in our club.

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