Anaesthesia Information Page

Drips


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Drips?
What are these "drips?"

The name drip comes from the fact that usually fluid is put into the body and the rate it goes into the body is measured by the number of drops coming from the bottle. Drips come in numerous forms, and we tend to call them lines describing where each tube is actually going into the body. Usually drip only means a line into a vein. The number of actual lines put in for your anaesthetic depends on the operation you are having, and your current level of health. The smaller the operation and the healthier you are, the less lines will be put into you. For the majority of operations, only an intravenous line is required. There are numerous other lines you may encounter but these are the most common ones.

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Intravenous line
A tube into a vein

The veins are the blue blood vessels you see just under the skin. They take blood back to the heart. The intravenous line (or IV) is the most commonly encountered drip in anaesthesia. It is basically a way of putting fluids and drugs into the body. The pain of having a drip put in is usually about the same as having blood taken. Usually after a small injection of local anaethetic at the site of the IV, another needle is put into the vein. This needle is then removed, leaving only a small plastic tube in the vein and this may either be capped off for easy access, or connected to a running drip. The most common drips are just salt and water in the right balance for the body. Most IV lines are inserted in the forearm or back of the hand.

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Urinary catheter
A tube into the bladder

Catheters are soft tubes designed to be put into the bladder. They drain the bladder without the need to go to the toilet. Their purpose is to automatically empty the bladder when you can't - for example if you don't have feeling or are asleep for very long operations, and to measure the amount of urine you produce. We use this measurement to help guide fluid administration and to watch your kidneys. A small amount of local anaesthetic gel is placed first and then the tube is passed. While not being painful it is slightly uncomfortable having it passed but the sensation usually passes. Occasionally they are put in after you are asleep.

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Nasogastric tube
A tube into the stomach

Nasogastric tubes are soft tubes that pass from the nose down the back of your food pipe into the stomach. They help drain the stomach when the stomach is not working properly, and prevent build up of food and fluid. This happens often after an operation on your stomach or intestines. They are uncomfortable being passed and often leave you with a tickle in the back of the throat while they are there. These are usually put in while you are asleep.

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Arterial line
A tube into an artery

Arteries are the blood vessels that spread blood from the heart and are usually not visible. They can be felt at the points where you take your pulse - such as on the thumb side of your wrist - as they have blood pumping from the heart ()rather than just draining back into it as veins do). An arterial line is a drip into an artery. The pain of having an arterial line put in is usually slightly more than having an IV inserted. Arterial lines are put in the same way as IV lines, and are connected to a drip and a monitor. The purpose of an arterial line is to measure blood pressure very accurately when it may change rapidly, and to take multiple blood samples without repeated injections. Most arterial lines are inserted into the wrist.

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Central line
A tube into the biggest veins

Central lines are specialised forms of IV lines, being put into large veins. They are usually put into the base of the neck or under the collar bone. They are also connected to drips and monitors and they provide a means of putting multiple different fluids at the same time into the body and for measuring the pressures around the heart. They can be left in for longer than normal IV lines.

Gallery
 
drip image
Intravenous drip (Click for larger image)
 

  Back to Top Site created by Con Kolivas Jan 2001
 

[ Home | Drips? | Intravenous line | Urinary catheter | Nasogastric | Arterial line | Central line ]