Venepuncture and cannulation: Indications and vein selection


Venepuncture is the process of puncturing a vein with a needle.

Intravenous cannulation is the process of inserting a plastic tube into a peripheral vein in order to access the circulatory system. Both venepuncture and intravenous cannulation are extremely common in almost all healthcare settings..

In the context of primary health care, the rate of venepuncture continues to rise. Access to procedures requiring short term IV cannulas are also on the rise in primary health care. Whilst some Aboriginal health service clients have ready access to specialist phlebotomy services, many do not.

For any clinician required to perform these procedures, skill and competency must be developed and enhanced on an ongoing basis.

This module is one of a series of 5 on venepuncture and cannulation. The 5 modules are:

  • Indications and vein selection
  • Equipment selection.
  • Special considerations for infants and children.
  • Venepuncture – A step-by-step procedural guide
  • Cannulation – A step-by-step procedural guide

Caution: Prior to undertaking venepuncture and cannulations, clinicians should check local policies and access the appropriate practical training and competency assessments. Only those deemed competent should perform venepuncture or cannulation.

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Learning Objectives

At the end of this module participants will be able to:

  • Identify indications for venepuncture and intravenous cannulation in clinical practice.
  • Describe the anatomy and physiology of the peripheral vascular system.
  • Understand how to select a vein for venepuncture or intravenous cannulation.
  • Identify problems that may occur while obtaining venous access and how to overcome them.
  • Summarise special considerations for children.

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