What is a blown vein?
A blown vein, sometimes called a ruptured vein, is a blood vessel that’s damaged due to a needle insertion. This can happen when a healthcare provider, such as a phlebotomist or nurse, draws blood or inserts a peripheral IV to give you medications or fluids.
During a needle insertion, the tip of the needle should enter your vein wall and land within the opening (lumen) of your vein. Sometimes, though, the tip goes a bit further and pokes through the other side of your vein. As a result, some blood leaks out and pools under your skin (hematoma). This can cause mild, temporary discomfort.
A blown vein usually isn’t dangerous or a cause for concern. It should heal within a couple of weeks. Your provider will wait to use the vein for any further needle insertions until it’s healed.
Symptoms and Causes
What are the symptoms?
Blown vein symptoms occur around the area of your vein and include:
- Skin discoloration.
- Pain or discomfort.
- Tenderness to the touch.
What does a blown vein look like?
The area around your blown vein may appear red or purple. This is because some blood has leaked out of your vein and pooled under your skin. The discoloration is temporary and should go away within a couple of weeks.
What causes a blown vein?
A blown vein happens when something doesn’t go right during a needle insertion. The needle punctures or irritates your vein, causing mild and temporary damage.
Here are some common issues that can interfere with a needle insertion and lead to a blown vein:
- Movement (even slight) when the needle goes in. You may accidentally move your arm or flinch, causing the needle to go off-course.
- Rolling vein. A provider may say you have a “rolling vein” if your vein moves easily when touched. Your vein may move to the side, away from the needle, during insertion. You can’t control whether your vein rolls or not. But your provider may check to see if it rolls or is stable before inserting a needle.
- Fragile vein. Your veins naturally grow more fragile as you get older, so they may break more easily. Veins can also become fragile due to long-term medical or nonmedical IV use.
- Unsuitable needle size. Sometimes, a provider may select a needle size that seems appropriate. But in fact, it’s too large for your particular vein.
What are the complications of a blown vein?
When a vein blows during an IV insertion, one possible complication is that the IV substance can leak into nearby tissues. Healthcare providers call this complication infiltration or extravasation, depending on the type of substance that leaks. Extravasation involves substances that may cause greater tissue damage, such as chemotherapy medication.
If you’re on an IV, tell your provider right away if you notice:
- Pain, discomfort or numbness.
- A tight feeling in your skin.
- Swelling of the area around the IV.
These may be signs of a leak. Your provider will also monitor you while you’re on the IV. If they notice a problem, they’ll disconnect you from the IV and give you appropriate treatment.
Diagnosis and Tests
How is a blown vein diagnosed?
Providers usually notice a blown vein right away, while drawing blood or inserting an IV, and take action to correct the issue. If you have symptoms of a blown vein later on, when you get home, call your provider and discuss how you’re feeling.
Management and Treatment
How do you fix a blown vein?
To treat a blown vein, the provider will:
- Remove the needle.
- Put gentle pressure on the area.
- Clean the area.
- Apply ice to help with any swelling.
If a blown vein happens during an IV insertion, the provider will look for any signs of infiltration or extravasation. If these complications occur, the provider will:
- Stop the IV flow.
- Apply a warm or cool compress to the vein.
- Give you medication, if needed, to prevent or lessen damage to the tissues surrounding your vein.
How can you prevent blown veins?
You can’t prevent all the possible causes of a blown vein. For example, you can’t stop your veins from growing fragile as you get older. But here are some steps you can take to lower your risk:
- Speak up. Tell the provider who’s inserting your needle if you have a history of blown veins. Tell them which veins are usually successful for needle sticks, and which ones have blown in the past. Your provider will appreciate knowing this information beforehand and will use it to select the best vein.
- Ask about your provider’s technique. If you’ve had blown veins before, you might feel nervous every time a needle comes out. But use this as a chance to start a conversation with your provider. Before the needle goes in, ask your provider what they do to prevent a blown vein. It may help you to hear their strategy. For example, they may stabilize the vein by pressing down on it, or use a tourniquet to help your vein bulge out more. Be sure to ask what you can do to help, too.
- Try to stay calm. If you’re nervous, you may naturally flinch or move around more. Try your best to stay calm while the needle goes in. Talking to your provider first about their technique may reassure you and help you relax.
Outlook / Prognosis
What can I expect if I have a blown vein?
There’s usually no reason to worry. Your blown vein will heal in about 10 to 12 days. Your provider won’t use that vein for IV access or blood draws until it’s fully healed. It’s a good idea to avoid lifting any heavy objects with your affected arm or hand until your symptoms go away.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
Call your provider and let them know if:
- Your symptoms, such as pain, get worse.
- The area swells or feels warm to the touch.
- You develop a fever.
- There’s drainage from the area.
Your provider may want you to come in so they can check for possible complications, such as an infection.
What questions should I ask my provider?
Talk to your provider if you’re concerned about blown veins. Some questions you may want to ask include:
- What’s the cause of my blown veins?
- What can I do to prevent them from happening?
- Are there certain veins that you recommend I use for future blood draws or IVs?
- How can I treat any discomfort at home?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A blown vein usually isn’t anything to worry about. But if it’s happened to you at least once, you may want to talk to your provider. Simple medical procedures shouldn’t cause you discomfort. Your provider will be happy to talk with you about what’s causing the issue and how you can work together to lower the risk of it happening again.
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