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What is the Process of IV Cannulation?

Phlebotomy Training Institute
7 Mins Read

If you’ve ever been in a hospital or doctor’s office, you might have heard about “IV cannulation.” Intravenous (IV) cannulation is a common medical procedure that involves inserting a thin, flexible tube (cannula) into a vein. This cannula then acts as a highway for delivering —

  • fluids,
  • medications,
  • and other essential substances directly into the bloodstream.

Whether you’re a healthcare professional or simply looking to understand this routine procedure, this blog will get into the process of Intravenous cannulation, explaining each step in detail.

Close-up of intravenous drip in the ward at hospital

Purpose of Intravenous Cannulation

There are numerous reasons why a healthcare provider might recommend Intravenous cannulation. Here are some common ones:

  • Delivering fluids: When someone is dehydrated or requires fluids for other reasons, an IV can efficiently replenish their body’s fluids.
  • Administering medications: Certain medications are most effective when delivered intravenously.
  • Blood sampling: Blood draws can be conveniently done through an established IV line, minimising the need for multiple needle pricks.
  • Providing nutrition: For patients unable to consume food orally, essential nutrients can be delivered directly into the bloodstream through an IV.

Check out our insightful blog to learn the different types of Cannulation.

Experienced cosmetologist holding medical intravenous cannula for anti-ageing procedure

The Process of IV Cannulation: Step-by-Step

Let’s break down the steps of Intravenous cannulation in the following:

Step 01: Introducing and Explaining

First, the healthcare provider introduces themselves and makes sure they know who the patient is. Then, they explain what they’re going to do and get the patient’s permission to continue. They also mention that the process might cause a bit of discomfort but won’t last long.

Step 02: Patient Assessment and Getting Ready

The healthcare provider assesses the patient’s veins to determine the most suitable site for cannulation. Veins in the arms, hands, and sometimes feet are commonly used. Factors such as vein size, visibility, and accessibility are taken into consideration to minimise discomfort and complications.

Next, the provider gathers all the things they need:

  • alcohol cleanser,
  • gloves,
  • an alcohol wipe,
  • a tourniquet,
  • an IV cannula (that’s the tube they’ll put in the vein),
  • a plaster,
  • a syringe,
  • saline (a saltwater solution),
  • and a bin for waste.

Step 03: Cleaning Hands

Before touching anything, the provider cleans their hands with the alcohol cleanser to keep everything sterile (clean and germ-free).

Step 04: Positioning

The patient is positioned comfortably, usually lying down or sitting with the arm extended and supported. This allows for better access to the chosen vein and ensures the patient’s comfort throughout the procedure.

Step 05: Applying the Tourniquet

A tourniquet is like a stretchy band that helps them see the vein better. They put it on the arm and double-check the vein. Remember that the tourniquet should be tight enough to impede venous return but not so tight as to compromise arterial circulation.

Besides, check out our latest blog post on the 8 sites of Venipuncture.

Close-up of doctor wearing latex gloves giving IV injection to female patient in hospital bed

Step 06: Putting on Gloves and Cleaning the Skin

The provider wears gloves to keep everything clean. They use the alcohol wipe to clean the patient’s skin where they’ll put the IV, then let it dry.

Step 07: Getting the Cannula Ready

They take the IV cannula out of its package and remove the cover over the needle, being careful not to touch the needle.

Step 08: Stretching the Skin

The provider pulls the skin a little bit and warns the patient that they might feel a quick poke.

Step 09: Inserting the Needle

They put the needle into the vein at a slight angle of about 30 degrees and push it in until they see a tiny bit of blood come back into the tube connected to the needle.

Step 10: Advancing the Cannula

Once they see the blood, they move the whole tube part of the IV a bit more into the vein, about 2 millimetres. Then, they secure the needle and push the rest of the IV tube into the vein.

Step 11: Removing the Needle

They then let go of the stretchy band, press gently on the vein where the IV is, and take out the needle completely. Then, they take off the cap from the needle and put it on the end of the cannula.

Step 12: Disposing of the Needle

The used needle goes into a special bin for sharp objects.

Step 13: Securing the Cannula

They put a plaster over the cannula to keep it in place and write the date on it. Plus, they record details like date, time, insertion site, cannula size, and any complications encountered.

Step 14: Checking the Saline

Before using the saline (saltwater), they make sure it’s not expired. Then, they put it in a syringe and push it through the cannula to make sure it’s working right.

Step 15: Cleaning Up and Thanking the Patient

Finally, they throw away their gloves and other stuff in the waste bin, make sure the patient is okay, and thank them for their cooperation.

Visit our insightful blog to learn the differences between Venipuncture and Cannulation.

Cropped view of phlebotomist wearing sterile gloves drawing blood from a patient using a butterfly needle.

Additional Points to Consider

Below are several key factors to remember.

  • Regularly monitor the insertion site for redness, swelling, or pain.
  • Assess for signs of infiltration (leakage of fluid into the surrounding tissue).
  • Change the dressing as per institutional guidelines or if soiled.
  • Remove the cannula when no longer needed and apply gentle pressure to the insertion site for hemostasis (bleeding control).


  • Only trained personnel should perform Intravenous cannulation to minimise risks of complications.
  • Catheter size selection is crucial. A smaller cannula is preferred for routine fluid administration, while a larger one might be needed for blood transfusions.
  • Catheter care is essential to prevent infection. The insertion site should be cleaned regularly, and the dressing should be changed as per guidelines.

Besides, you can check out our informative blog to learn, “ What is Cannulation? Types, Techniques, and Importance.

Wrapping Up

IV cannulation is a fundamental skill in healthcare that allows for the efficient and safe delivery of essential fluids and medications. By following a systematic approach and maintaining strict adherence to sterile techniques, healthcare providers can minimise the risk of complications and ensure optimal patient outcomes.

So, at this moment, If learning about Intravenous cannulation feels like a lot, don’t worry. You can consider training at a trusted place that teaches it all. Knowing how to put a tube in someone’s vein is really important in healthcare.

Getting certified from a recognised institute, like the CPD-accredited and NHS-accepted one at the Phlebotomy Training Institute, helps you learn both theory and practice. This training makes you better at cannulation and more confident. It mixes hands-on practice with online learning for a full education.

Before starting cannulation training, make sure you enrol in phlebotomy training first.


1) Does Intravenous cannulation hurt?

While some discomfort is possible during insertion, numbing cream can be applied beforehand to minimise any pain. Most patients experience a prick during insertion and a slight tugging sensation.

2) How long does an Intravenous cannula stay in place?

Your cannula should be changed every 72-96 hours or taken out by a nurse when it’s not needed anymore (or sooner if there’s an issue). But sometimes, there’s a good reason to keep it in longer, and they’ll tell you why if you ask.

3) What are the risks of Intravenous cannulation?

While a safe procedure, some potential risks include:

●      Infiltration (leakage of fluid outside the vein)

●      Infection

●      Blood clot formation

●      Phlebitis (inflammation of the vein)

●      Accidental puncture of an artery (rare).

4) What are the signs of infection around the IV insertion site?

Redness, swelling, tenderness, pus drainage, or fever around the insertion site could be signs of infection. If you experience any of these, inform your healthcare provider immediately.

5) What happens if the IV cannula falls out?

If your IV cannula falls out, apply gentle pressure to the insertion site with a clean cloth and inform your healthcare provider right away. Do not attempt to reinsert the cannula yourself.



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