Medical Errors in Manuscripts: An IV is not a Needle

This week I’m going to cover three of the most common medical errors I see in manuscripts.

Note to authors everywhere: An IV is not a needle.

Product Photo

This picture is the IV as it comes out of the package. This is an over-the-needle catheter meaning the needle is encased inside the catheter. Once the needle is inside the vein, the white button (seen at the base of the blue part) is pushed and the needle is sheathed inside the bottom plastic holder. You can see the spring fills that compartment in comparison to when the needle is visible. This is a safety feature to prevent needle stick injury. Once the needle is gone, a small plastic catheter is left inside the vein. Not a needle. The needle is gone.

When you start an IV you get a “flashback”— meaning blood is visible in the catheter. Typically, once you get flashback, you advance the catheter and needle a little more (like one millimeter) into the vein. Then you’ll slide the catheter off the needle and advance it into the vein, popping the button to sheath the needle. Then you connect tubing or a cap to the yellow portion and you now have IV (intravenous) access.

Needle recapping is a no-no in the medical setting. Every healthcare provider is drilled to never recap needles. Many devices have safety features like this one so you don’t have to recap to cover the needle.

Did you know the hubs of IV catheters are color coded for size even across different brands? For instance, a yellow hub is a 24 Gauge catheter. And catheter sizes are inverse so the smaller the number, the larger the IV catheter is. A 24 Gauge would be the size for an infant versus an 18 Gauge would be the size for an adult patient.

Medical question for you: Why are there white stripes on the plastic catheter (the part that stays inside the patient)?