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What are the Different Types of Cannulation?

Phlebotomy Training Institute
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Cannulation is when a thin tube called a cannula is put into a vein or artery. It’s a common medical procedure used for administering medication, drawing blood, or providing fluids. Cannulation is important in places like hospitals, ambulances, and at home. Knowing the different types of cannulation is very important for doctors, nurses, and phlebotomists to keep patients safe and healthy. There are two main cannula categories:

  • Intravenous (IV) for fluids and meds in veins
  • Nasal for oxygen delivery through the nose

Each type has variations for specific needs.

In this guide, we’ll look at the different kinds of cannulation, what they’re used for, and things to think about when doing them.

Delighted adult female lying on couch and talking over mobile phone while getting skin nutrition via venous cannulation

Different Types of Cannulation

As mentioned, there are two main types:

Intravenous (IV) Cannulas

IV cannulas are short, flexible tubes placed into a vein. They’re used for blood transfusions, drawing blood, giving medication, and providing fluids. The patient lies or sits with their arm exposed. The healthcare provider cleans the area with an antiseptic and ties a tourniquet above the desired insertion point. They then insert the IV cannula into a vein. After the cannula is in the vein, the needle is taken out while the cannula stays inside. Medical tapes or special bandages are used to keep the cannula in place.

Are you interested in learning about the 8 sites of venipuncture? Visit our informative blog to get a detailed understanding of the sites.

Close-up of the intravenous drip in the ward at hospital

What are the Types of IV Cannulas?

There are different types of IV cannulas:

  • Peripheral IV cannulas
  • Central IV cannulas
  • Draining cannulas

They come in various sizes, usually ranging from 14 to 22 gauge (According to a 2015 study), with higher gauge numbers indicating smaller cannulas.

Peripheral IV Cannulas

In emergencies and surgeries, medical professionals rely on peripheral IV cannulas. These thin tubes, inserted in the arm or hand, provide a direct route for delivering fluids, medications, and even contrast for radiological images. They’re designed for short-term use and secured with tape for stability.

Central IV Cannulas

Central line cannulas are like heavy-duty IVs. They’re used for people who need treatments for weeks or months, like chemo. These thin tubes go into larger veins in the chest, groin, or neck, allowing for faster delivery of medicine and fluids.

Since they stay in longer, they’re more prone to infection. So, doctors watch for signs like redness, swelling, or fever and might take them out if that happens.

Draining Cannulas

Draining cannulas are special tubes used to take out fluids or other substances your body doesn’t need. They’re used in some very serious situations, such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), which is typically only used in critically ill patients with severe pulmonary and/or cardiac failure.

In this case, the cannula takes blood out from the venous system, gets oxygen added, and then puts it back into the body. Draining cannulas can also be used in liposuction. In such situations, the cannula is linked to a trocar. A trocar is a sharp tool made of metal or plastic that can poke through tissue to take out or put in fluids in a body cavity or organ.

In addition, you can visit our informative blog to learn the differences between Venipuncture and Cannulation.

Close-up of sick female patient with a nasal cannula

Nasal Cannulas

On the other hand, nasal cannulas deliver oxygen. They’re made of a flexible tube with two protruding tips that go into the nostrils. They help with breathing problems and make it easier for the heart to work, treating low oxygen levels in the blood.

When inserting a nasal cannula, the healthcare provider may ask the individual to sit up straight (if possible) to expand their lungs fully. They then insert the flow meter into a power source and attach it to a nozzle, turning it on to ensure oxygen is flowing properly.

Next, they place the nasal cannula into the individual’s nose with the two prongs of the cannula positioned just inside their nostrils. They loop the extended tubes around the individual’s ears and set a plastic slider under the chin to keep it in place.

Finally, they evaluate the flow rate every 4-8 hours to assess the individual’s oxygen levels and response to oxygenation.

Close-up shot of young woman wearing nasal cannula spending day in emergency room

What are the Types of Nasal Cannulas?

There are two main types of nasal cannulas:

Regular Nasal Cannula:
  • This is the standard type, with thin tubing that rests gently under the nose.
  • It delivers lower oxygen levels (up to 4-6 litres per minute of supplemental oxygen) compared to others.
  • The patient can breathe through their mouth or nose with this cannula, and it’s suitable for all ages and both short and long-term use.
  • Unlike IV cannulas, nasal cannulas come in sizes for adults, kids, and babies.
  • The amount of oxygen delivered changes based on how fast and deep someone breathes.
  • Higher flow rates can dry out your nose and throat, so a humidifier might be needed.
High-Flow Nasal Cannula (HFNC):
  • This is a more powerful option, delivering much higher oxygen levels (up to 60 litres per minute).
  • Newer models even warm the oxygen for easier breathing.
  • Some people find HFNC more comfortable as it’s lighter and less irritating than the regular type.
  • HFNC was helpful for COVID-19 patients with breathing problems.

Nasal cannulas can be taken home for people who need oxygen therapy. The process for using a nasal cannula at home is similar to using one in the hospital. But at home, it connects to a portable oxygen tank. A healthcare provider can show how to use the equipment and when to refill the oxygen tank.

Besides the above, there is another cannula type used based on individual needs. Let’s get a brief overview.

Close-up shot of injection on face of pretty woman during botox procedures in salon.


The blunt-tip micro cannula is becoming popular for various medical and cosmetic purposes. Unlike regular needles, microcannulas use a single entry

point to reach under the skin, reducing trauma. Due to their small size, they cause less discomfort and tissue damage during procedures like filler injections or botox applications. They’re mainly used for delivering filler materials to the face and skin, not for drawing blood or transfusions. Actually, microcannulas find application in —

  • anaesthesia,
  • liposuction,
  • and delicate surgical procedures.

One big advantage of microcannulas is that they cause less trauma to the patient compared to needles, reducing the risk of complications. As more people seek less invasive cosmetic procedures, microcannulas are becoming more common in medical practices. Before using any type of cannula, dermatologists and doctors should take precautions to avoid complications. It’s important to follow proper procedures and consult with the manufacturer for guidance. Having plans in place to help patients if something goes wrong is also crucial.

In addition, visit our latest blog post to get a detailed understanding of the best practices and procedures in Phlebotomy.

Wrapping Up

To sum it up, the world of “Types of Cannulation” might seem complex, but each cannula serves a specific purpose. From the familiar IV drip to nasal oxygen support and more, these thin tubes play a vital role in delivering fluids, medications, and even oxygen directly into the body. Understanding the different types helps both medical professionals and patients make informed decisions.

If you feel overwhelmed by the different types of cannulas, don’t worry. You should consider getting trained at a reputable institute that offers thorough knowledge and practical training on cannulation. Further, becoming proficient in inserting a cannula into a patient’s vein is important.

Getting certified from a recognised program like the CPD-accredited and NHS-accepted one at the Phlebotomy Training Institute ensures you learn both theory and practical skills. This certified training helps you improve your abilities and feel more confident in performing cannulation procedures. It combines hands-on practice with online learning to give you a well-rounded education.

Remember that before taking the cannulation training, you must enrol in the phlebotomy training.


1) Is cannulation painful?

Inserting a cannula can cause some discomfort, but it’s usually brief and manageable. Anaesthetic creams can further minimise any sensation.

2) How long can a peripheral IV stay in?

Typically, healthcare professionals recommend using peripheral IVs for no longer than 72 hours to minimise the risk of infection.

3) What happens if a cannula falls out?

If a cannula dislodges, don’t try to reinsert it. Apply gentle pressure to the insertion site and seek medical attention immediately.

4) Can a baby use a nasal cannula?

Absolutely! Nasal cannulas come in sizes suitable for infants and children.

5) What are the warning signs of a cannula infection?

Redness, swelling, pus, or fever around the insertion site are all potential signs of infection. If a patient experiences any of these, seek medical attention promptly.


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