Millions of people require catheters each year, although new research has found as many as two thirds of patients who require peripheral catheters are being jabbed in the wrong places.
Despite being one of the most common medical procedures, research led by Western Sydney University and published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine has found in addition to being jabbed in incorrect places, the risk of infection and painful malfunctions is increasing because catheters are being left unused and unmonitored.
Researchers discovered that two in three catheter insertions are in non-recommended sites and that as many as one in five are unnecessarily painful or malfunctioning. In the largest global study of its kind, hundreds of health professionals assessed 40,620 peripheral intravenous catheters (PIVCs) in 51 countries. It was discovered that thousands of catheters were being placed in non-recommended body parts such as the hand, wrist and antecubital veins, with many devices reviewed already failing or at risk of failing.
Researchers believe the findings highlight inconsistencies in published recommendations.
“For something so commonly used, failure rates are unacceptably high,” lead author Dr Evan Alexandrou said in a statement. “We found one in five catheters to be painful or otherwise symptomatic, with dressings covering the catheters being substandard and many devices were idle and had not been used for some time.”
Researchers also discovered almost half of the catheters reviewed had no documented date or time of when the devices were inserted into patients. This means that almost 2 billion PIVCs are used each year around the world, with millions of patients putting up with pain or malfunctioning catheters that staff haven’t seen to.
In addition to the pain and discomfort this causes patients, fixing the problem could also have an array of health and financial benefits.
“It would reduce delays in treatment with vital medication, improve efficiency of diagnostic tests such as laboratory values where blood sampling is required, and also improve catheter infection rates,” Alexandrou added. “The financial benefit to the Australian health care system alone would be in the millions of dollars.”
Researchers believe additional training and technology is required so staff can better identify and insert PICS effectively. The study also found there needs to be more focus on compliance with PIVC insertion and management guidelines, which includes better surveillance of PIVC sites as well as improving assessment, decision-making and documentation.