A blown or busted vein means that the vein has ruptured or been torn and is leaking an excess of blood that becomes visible under the skin. In some cases, the area of skin surrounding the affected vein will become dark colored and look bruised.
Typically, this occurs when there is damage done to the vein, such as when a medical professional inserts an IV, whether to administer vitamins or medication or take blood. If something goes wrong when the needle is inserted and it accidentally punctures the vein, the result is often a busted vein. If the area of the needle insert starts to become dark during the actual needle procedure, it should be removed right away as this is a sign that there has been some kind of harm done to the vein that is causing it to leak blood.
If, after the injection is complete, you begin to experience symptoms such as tenderness, stinging, swelling, bruising, pain or discomfort around the area where the needle was injected, it is likely that you have a blown vein.
You could also experience a busted vein in hand as a result of an accidental injury such as bumping into something, closing your hand in a car door or a drawer, or dropping something heavy on it. More often than not, however, it is the result of a needle injury.
Of course, medical professionals go through the proper education and hands-on training to learn how to correctly insert a needle into their patients for whatever procedure is being performed, but as with all medical treatments, there is almost always a slight risk for complications. In the simplest explanation, a blown vein is the result of a needle going in one side of the vein and instead of staying put to draw blood or administer medication, it goes out the other side.
There are a few different reasons why this can happen. If the doctor or nurse uses the wrong size needle, it might not be able to do its job. Just like people are all shapes and sizes, so are their veins and so do needles. For people with smaller veins, such as babies and young children, or people with veins that are not as easy to find, butterfly needles are the best choice. These are also called a winged infusion set or a scalp vein set because on either side of a needle, there is a plastic part that looks like wings that help access the vein.
In addition to being the right size needle, it must also be inserted at just the right angle in order to catch the “sweet spot” of the vein. That ideal angle is no more than 30 degrees. If the medical professional is not able to catch the vein on the first shot, they should start over and look for a new vein to insert the needle into. The doctor or nurse should never move the needle or “fish” around looking for the vein once the needle has been inserted into the skin.
On that same note, the patient should not move around either. Sudden movement can cause the needle to shift and puncture the vein. Patients should stay as still as possible until the medic has completed the procedure and the needle has been safely and fully removed from the skin.
Another risk factor for blown veins from needle injuries is the condition of the vein itself. Damaged veins are inevitably going to be harder to access than normal, healthy veins. If a patient has a history of excessive IV use, i.e. a cancer patient receiving chemotherapy, there is a chance that the repeated needle insertions have caused damage at some point and there is scar tissue in place of where the veins once were. Additionally, some veins are just inherently thicker and might not hold still as the doctor or nurse inserts the needle, and starts to roll away before the needle has fully inserted the vein.
Age is a common risk factor as well simply because of how fragile and thin the skin becomes as we grow older.
Medical professionals should always take a slow and steady approach when inserting a needle into their patient’s veins. As the patient, it is important for you to be very well hydrated before the procedure, and be patient and still as the doctor or nurse proceeds with caution.
If needles make you nervous or uncomfortable, do not hesitate to express this to your doctor or nurse. Medics are full of ideas for how to distract and keep patients calm and collected during uncomfortable treatments and procedures. Most importantly, take deep breaths and either close your eyes or place your focus on something else in the room.
Open communication between the patient and health professionals is crucial to success. If you have experienced complications with needle insertions in the past, make sure to let the doctor or nurse know so they are aware that there could be an issue.
There is no cause for major concern if you experience a blown vein. It is not usually a serious medical issue to worry about, however it is important to let the blown vein heal fully. While it is healing, you should avoid any kind of needle injection at the site of the affected vein. That includes having blood drawn, or using intravenous therapy for any kind of medication, vitamin or supplement.
Blown veins will not cause long-term damage and are easy to treat. The treatment for busted vein is nothing complicated. Symptoms include a little pain and discomfort, as bruising at the insertion sight. A compress compress or ice pack will help alleviate the pain, and the bruise should fade on its own within two weeks.
Pay close attention to the blown vein as it goes through the healing process. If the symptoms have not gone away within a couple weeks and you notice additional symptoms such as swelling and pussing around the affected area, fever, severe pain, or difficulty moving the affected area, you should seek medical attention right away. The quicker these symptoms are addressed and treated, the quicker you will be on the mend.
If you are concerned about blown veins or the symptoms associated with them, Dr. Susan B Fox, D. O., RPVI, FSVM and her team of vein experts are here to help. Call our office at 954-627-1045 to schedule an appointment and we will determine the best treatment plan for your individual condition.
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