What Is A Blown Vein? | Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

A blown vein is a term used to describe what happens to a vein when it ruptures or gets punctured.

The rupture/puncture causes blood to leak outside the vein, and the blood may spill out into the surrounding area.

As a result, it causes the vein to be useless to draw blood, inject medication, or use an IV.

In most cases, a blown vein is not dangerous and is usually harmless.

However, treating a damaged vein would be best to avoid further injury or medical issues.

You should also avoid using the vein to draw blood or initiate an IV until it has fully healed.

A blown vein may result from various medical procedures.

It includes drawing blood, injecting medication, or administering an IV in the arm.

In that case, the person, nurse, or physician must pick a different vein for the procedure to ensure the individual’s safety.

What Causes a Blown Vein

Several different factors may cause a blown vein.

A vein may blow due to an attempted injection by a too-large needle or insert incorrectly.

It may also result from a needle implanted deeply into the vein, causing both sides of the vein to be perforated.

The perforation causes blood to leak out either end of the vein.

Alternatively, a blown vein may result from abnormally sensitive, fragile, or thin walls.

Elderly patients or people with medical conditions/severe illnesses often have delicate veins.

Lastly, some veins are naturally prone to sensitive movement.

As a result, they move around quickly when the arm moves or when applying pressure to the area.

It is challenging to implant or keeps a needle in the vein when it continuously moves around.

Frequent Causes of a Blown Vein

  • Using a catheter that is too large
  • Inserting a needle into a highly sensitive/fragile vein
  • Accidentally perforating both sides of the vein when inserting a needle, causing a leak out from the opposite end
  • Inserting a needle into a movable vein
  • Moving around while a catheter/needle is in the vein

Symptoms of a Blown Vein

Individuals with a blown vein may experience bruising and swelling around the vein.

The resulting bruising and swelling can appear discolored (red, purple, or black).

Tenderness around the vein area may also be apparent.

Blown Vein Signs:

  • Discoloration
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Hematoma

How to Treat a Blown Vein

Disclaimer: Consult a medical professional or qualified phlebotomist to treat a blown vein properly. This article does not constitute medical advice.

The first step in treating a blown vein is to identify whether the vein has blown and, if so, how severe it is.

You can identify a blown vein by observing discoloration around the area and checking for swelling and tenderness.

In most cases, a blown vein is relatively harmless.

You can treat it by applying pressure to the area and cleaning the skin with alcohol pads and antibacterial chemicals.

You can also use a cold treatment such as an ice pack to minimize swelling.

However, seek immediate professional help if there is considerable swelling, blood leakage, or abnormal sensitivity.

A physician or healthcare professional can ensure the vein is safe from infection or medical complications.

Treating a blown vein:

  • Determine whether you have a blown vein
  • Apply pressure to the area
  • Clean the open skin with the proper antibacterial materials
  • Apply an ice pack to minimize swelling, inflammation, and bruising
  • Consult a professional if there is any concern for infection, toxicity, or additional damage

How to Avoid a Blown Vein

Using the correct needle when inserting a catheter, drawing blood, injecting medication, or administering an IV is vital.

Using an adequately sized needle will help you avoid accidentally rupturing the vein.

Consider using a smaller needle to perform minor procedures if you have concerns about the needle size.

If a tourniquet is applied to help identify a potential vein, pay attention to how tight the tourniquet is.

Once the vein is appropriately perforated, release the tourniquet so the blood can flow freely.

When dealing with elderly patients or sensitive veins, use a blood pressure cuff to precisely control the pressure.

Use a visual aid like a vein finder to locate a suitable vein if a tourniquet or BP cuff cannot adequately pinpoint a vein.

You can also use a heating pad on patients with a cold arm to warm it and identify a vein more easily.

As you look for a good vein, try to identify one that isn’t too small or sensitive to be punctured.

In addition, search for a straight vein that provides a better insertion to minimize perforation errors.

During insertion, slowly insert the needle, and ensure the bevel is facing up.

Then insert the needle at the proper angle to avoid pushing through both sides of the vein.

Once you see a flashback from the needle, STOP and adjust the approach by lowering your needle’s angle.

It will help prevent poking through the other side of the venous wall.

Lastly, if you insert a needle and cannot find the vein avoid fishing for the vein.

Consequently, it can cause unnecessary injury and potentially blow a surrounding vein.

Instead, pull the needle back and adjust the angle of the vein you want to perforate.

Preventing a Blown Vein During Needle Insertion:

  • Identify the correct catheter/needle size before perforating the vein
  • Choose the best vein for the situation (avoid small, sensitive veins, look for straight veins)
  • Make sure you insert the needle at the correct angle (avoid inserting it at an angle that is too shallow or deep)
  • Insert the catheter/needle slowly and stop once you’ve hit the vein to assess the situation (look for a flashback or adequate blood flow)
  • Improve the vein’s visibility using the appropriate methods (gravity, tourniquet, BP cuff for elderly patients)
  • Use visual aids if available (vein finder device, etc.)
  • Avoid fishing for a vein.
  • Anchor the vein and arm to minimize movement during insertion or procedure

Disclaimer: This article is purely for information purposes. You must consult an expert for advice on treating/managing a blown vein.