IV Complications

Any horse with an indwelling IV catheter should be monitored closely for the swelling and/or thick, rope-like consistency of a vein with thrombosis or thrombophlebitis. Catching any vein problem early and treating it minimizes the risk of serious pro
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What would happen to your horse if both of his jugular veins were damaged so that they were off-limits for taking blood for testing or administering medications and hampered the drainage of blood from his head? Sometimes an intravenous (IV) injection of medication or administration of fluid can cause inflammation of a vein (thrombophlebitis) or blockage of the vein (thrombosis) due to the formation of a blood clot. Irritating medications (such as phenylbutazone and tetracyclines) that slip outside the vein or a catheter left in place for too long are some of the more common things that can cause problems in veins. For a number of years, horsemen have become increasingly aware and concerned about the possibility and repercussions of an irritated or blocked jugular vein in a horse.

Because catheters can cause problems in veins, a review of the medical literature on this subject (in both human and veterinary medicine) was done in 1991 by Terry C. Gerros, DVM, a veterinarian now in practice at Santiam Equine in Salem, Ore.1 That information is still valid for horsemen and veterinarians today.

Intravenous catheters were first used in human medicine in 1945. Some of the serious complications that were soon noticed included septic thrombophlebitis (an infected vein with a blood clot) and bacteremia (bacteria in the circulating blood) due to bacterial infections introduced by the catheters. Although the risk for problems in human patients even 20 years ago was low (less than 1%), the high number of patients requiring catheterization resulted in about 176,000 cases of hospital-acquired bacteremia reported annually (of which about one-third were related to intravenous devices), according to the review by Gerros.

Some of the factors that increased the risk of infection or other complications included the length of time a catheter was in place, severity of the underlying illness, the type of catheter used, improper insertion technique, and inexperience of the person inserting the catheter

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Written by:

Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband near Salmon, Idaho, raising cattle and a few horses. She has a B.A. in English and history from University of Puget Sound (1966). She has raised and trained horses for 50 years, and has been writing freelance articles and books nearly that long, publishing 20 books and more than 9,000 articles for horse and livestock publications. Some of her books include Understanding Equine Hoof Care, The Horse Conformation Handbook, Care and Management of Horses, Storey’s Guide to Raising Horses and Storey’s Guide to Training Horses. Besides having her own blog, www.heathersmiththomas.blogspot.com, she writes a biweekly blog at https://insidestorey.blogspot.com that comes out on Tuesdays.

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