Career Development

What are the Differences Between Venipuncture and Cannulation – Steps Included

Phlebotomy Training Institute
7 Mins Read

Have you ever been to the hospital and had a thin needle inserted in your arm to draw blood? That’s venipuncture. Or maybe you’ve needed a thin tube placed in your vein for medication or fluids? That’s cannulation. While both venipuncture and cannulation involve needles and veins, they have distinct purposes and procedures.

Here’s the brief: Venipuncture involves drawing blood from a vein for tests using a hollow needle, while cannulation is making a way into a vein using a tube, usually flexible, to give fluids or medicines. This tube can stay there for a longer time when needed.

Let’s delve deeper and understand the key differences between the two procedures.

Cropped image of nurse drawing blood with a syringe from a woman on medical bed in hospital.


Venipuncture is a medical procedure involving the puncture of a vein with a needle, typically to collect blood for various diagnostic purposes. Healthcare professionals, such as phlebotomists or nurses, perform this routine procedure which plays a crucial role in diagnosing and monitoring various medical conditions.

Steps of Venipuncture

1. Patient Preparation

  • Healthcare providers typically request patients to fast before conducting a blood test, especially when measuring specific blood parameters such as glucose levels.
  • They explain the procedure to the patient to alleviate any concerns.

2. Selection of Vein

  • The healthcare professional identifies a suitable vein, often in the arm, using their expertise.

3. Application of Tourniquet

  • A tourniquet is applied above the selected vein to make it easier to locate and access.

4. Cleansing the Area

  • The area is cleaned with an antiseptic solution to reduce the risk of infection.

5. Needle Insertion

  • The needle is inserted into the vein, and blood is drawn into collection tubes.

6. Removal of Needle and Application of Pressure

  • After collecting enough blood, healthcare providers remove the needle and apply pressure to stop any bleeding. After all that, they cover the puncture site with a bandage.

Nurse injecting the medicine into the hand of the patient who is lying on the hospital bed.


Cannulation, on the other hand, involves the insertion of a tube or catheter into a vessel or cavity of the body for various purposes, such as administering fluids, medications, or other substances directly into the bloodstream. This procedure is commonly used in hospitals, clinics, and emergency settings.

Steps of Cannulation

1. Patient Assessment

  • The healthcare provider assesses the patient’s condition and the need for intravenous (IV) therapy.

2. Selection of Site

  • A suitable vein is chosen for the insertion of the cannula, often in the hand, arm, or wrist.

3. Cleansing the Area

  • Similar to venipuncture, healthcare providers clean the selected area with an antiseptic solution.

4. Needle Insertion and Cannula Placement

  • After that, they use a needle to puncture the vein, and then they thread a flexible plastic tube (cannula) through the needle into the vein.

5. Removal of Needle

  • Once the cannula is in place, the needle is removed, leaving the plastic tube securely in the vein.

6. Securement and Connection

  • Healthcare providers secure the cannula in place with tape and connect it to IV tubing for administering fluids or medications.

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Nurse preparing patient for IV drip treatment and putting bandages on the arm.

Key Differences Between Venipuncture and Cannulation

While both involve the insertion of a needle into a vein, they serve different purposes. Let’s explore the following:

The Goal

Here are the objectives of the procedures.

  • Venipuncture: Aims to access blood from a vein. This blood is then used for laboratory analysis or diagnostic purposes.
  • Cannulation: Aims to create a direct pathway into a vein to deliver fluids, medications, or blood products (like transfusions) directly into the bloodstream.


Let’s check out where these procedures happen.

  • Venipuncture: Venipuncture is commonly performed in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and laboratories.
  • Cannulation: Cannulation is commonly performed in healthcare settings, including hospitals, emergency departments, and ambulances, to deliver fluids or medications to patients who cannot take them orally.

The Tools

Check out the tools employed in the procedures.

  • Venipuncture: Uses a hollow needle to puncture the vein and draw blood into a vial or syringe.
  • Cannulation: Uses a thin, flexible tube (cannula) inserted into the vein through a guide needle. The guide needle is then removed, leaving the cannula in place for extended use.

The Duration

Let’s check out the time considerations in the procedures.

  • Venipuncture: A quick procedure, usually taking a few minutes to complete once the vein is located.
  • Cannulation: Can be temporary or long-term, depending on the medical need. The cannula can stay in place for hours, days, or even weeks.

Choosing the Right Spot

Here are the best spots for accurate procedures.

  • Venipuncture: Typically performed in the arm, at the bend of the elbow, where veins are more visible and easily accessible.
  • Cannulation: This can be done in various locations, including the arm, hand, leg, or scalp, depending on vein size, patient comfort, and treatment requirements.

After the Procedure

Let’s check out the post-procedure care in the following.

  • Venipuncture: After drawing blood, the needle is removed, and pressure is applied to the puncture site to stop bleeding. A bandage is usually applied for a short time.
  • Cannulation: The cannula is secured with a transparent dressing, and the insertion site is monitored regularly for signs of infection or complications.

Here are some key parts to remember in the case of both procedures:

  • It’s crucial to seek professional help from qualified healthcare personnel for both venipuncture and cannulation.
  • These procedures should be performed under sterile conditions to minimise the risk of infection.
  • Always communicate any concerns or allergies you might have to the healthcare professional before the procedure.

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Wrapping Up

To sum it up, it’s important to know the differences between Venipuncture and Cannulation in healthcare. Venipuncture is mainly about taking blood for tests, while Cannulation is about making a direct way into a vein to give fluids or medicines. Both are crucial in taking care of patients, highlighting how skilled healthcare professionals are essential to do these procedures well and make patients comfortable.

So, healthcare professionals, such as phlebotomists, nurses, and medical laboratory technicians, typically undergo specialised training and certification programs to perform cannulation and venipuncture safely and proficiently. These programs cover important topics such as anatomy, infection control, cannulation and venipuncture techniques, and patient interaction. Plus, getting a recognised certificate ensures that healthcare professionals are really good at doing these procedures.

For instance, you can consider taking courses from the Phlebotomy Training Institute. We make sure you learn both theory and practical skills, ensuring you can have live blood draw experience, advanced phlebotomy skills, and knowledge, along with becoming proficient in inserting a cannula into a patient’s vein.

What sets us apart is that we provide a Certification of Professional Development (CPD) accepted by the National Health Service (NHS). This ensures you get a great education and skills. Our certified training gets people ready to be skilled phlebotomists through a mix of hands-on practice and online learning.


1) Where are common venipuncture sites?

The most common sites are in the bend of the elbow (cubital fossa), including the median cubital, cephalic, and basilic veins. Other sites, like the hand or wrist, may be used if the arm veins are inaccessible.

2) Does venipuncture hurt?

It can cause a slight prick or pinch when the needle enters the vein. Some people may experience mild discomfort, but it’s generally well-tolerated.

3) What should I do if bleeding continues after venipuncture?

If bleeding persists after venipuncture, apply firm pressure to the puncture site using sterile gauze or a bandage for a sufficient duration to promote hemostasis. Elevating the affected limb and applying ice packs can also help control bleeding. A trained healthcare professional can handle this situation well.

4) Can I remove the cannula myself?

No. Only trained healthcare professionals can remove the cannula to ensure safety and prevent complications.

5) Can phlebotomists Cannulate?

Yes, completing the cannulation training at the Phlebotomy Training Institute, accredited by CPD and accepted by the NHS, qualifies practitioners to conduct cannulation procedures safely.


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