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A patient has a saline solution IV drip into the vein. They have somehow moved around and the needle has fallen out of the vein, but remained in the body. Nobody has noticed and for a few hours water has accumulated like a balloon in the arm.

What happens? Is it dangerous? If untreated, would the body absorb the water, or would it remain as a balloon / pocket? If a pocket of water forms, what is the treatment?

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Is this a question about a real case? Or are you possibly asking about a homework question? (It sounds kind of like that to me) –  Armatus Sep 16 '13 at 22:10
    
Real case. I've been sent home with a puppy and an IV. It is the middle of the night. Closest vet is 6 hours away, and only available in the morning. –  Bob Sep 16 '13 at 22:37
    
@Bob we need to know where the pocket is exactly. –  caseyr547 Sep 16 '13 at 23:03
    
@caseyr547 above where the needle was inserted. Between elbow and shoulder. –  Bob Sep 16 '13 at 23:48

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

CALL YOUR VET ASAP. The following information is NOT from a medical or veterinary professional. It is based off of human physiology and doesn't necessarily apply to other mammals. I cannot guarantee the accuracy or effectiveness of any information that follows.

They have somehow moved around and the needle has fallen out of the vein, but remained in the body. Nobody has noticed and for a few hours water has accumulated like a balloon in the arm.

This is called "infiltration":

Diagram of Infiltration and Extravasation enter image description here

Is it dangerous?

It can be, depending on what was in the IV.

If untreated, would the body absorb the water, or would it remain as a balloon / pocket? If a pocket of water forms, what is the treatment?

Taken from here:

"If the infiltration is severe, you may consider the application of a compress in addition to elevating the affected limb. Check your institution’s policy regarding which type of compress (warm or cold) should be applied. Generally speaking, if the infiltration solution was isotonic, a warm compress is used to alleviate discomfort and help absorb the infiltration by increasing circulation to the affected area. However, sloughing can occur from the application of a warm compress to an area infiltrated with certain medications such as potassium chloride. In certain situations, a cold compress is recommended."

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Thanks for this answer. Unfortunately the vet was not available to call, but by morning, the water pocket had been sloughed into the body. I think we dodged a bullet. –  Bob Sep 17 '13 at 12:50
    
It seems like this was 'infiltration' as you say. –  Bob Sep 17 '13 at 12:51
    
When we told the vet in the morning, they didn't even seem the slightest concerned this happened. I dont know - but I think that is weird. If we had of been asleep, this would have continued for another 6 hours. I am surprised they sent us home with an IV in the first place without telling us all the possible issues, such as blood clotting in the tubes (which happened earlier) due to poor circulation. –  Bob Sep 17 '13 at 12:52
    
Well, I simply do not know how dangerous it is. My intuition says it's not particularly dangerous since the extra fluid is, eventually, absorbed. However, I'm not a medical professional and don't know the circumstances that dictates when it becomes dangerous. Thus, the big warning at the beginning. Better safe than sorry. :-) –  MCM Sep 17 '13 at 13:23

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