Dealing with intravenous lines and medications can become complicated for some patients, especially when veins collapse or blow.

This can happen no matter how carefully nurses work.

Understand the difference between the two so that you can prevent this complication for your patients while you are in nursing school.

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What Is the Difference Between a Collapsed Vein and a Blown Vein?

A blown vein occurs when the wall of a vein ruptures, especially when giving an intravenous drip or when inserting an intravenous line. Collapsed veins usually occur with long term intravenous usage.

Although collapsed veins and blown veins are terms that are frequently used interchangeably, they do denote slight differences.

Understanding, Preventing and Treating Collapsed and Blown Veins

Collapsed and blown veins are actually quite similar because they refer to a vein that has ruptured and is no longer open.

This can result in many problems, such as bruising and internal bleeding at the site, leaking of intravenous medications into the tissues, and discomfort.

While there is a slight difference in terminology and definitions between these medical problems, they can often be prevented or treated in similar ways.

What Is a Blown Vein?

A blown vein is a blood vessel that has ruptured. Because the pressure in the veins is not as great as the pressure in the arteries, this is not a life-threatening condition, but it can cause a great deal of discomfort and possible complications if it is not addressed quickly.

Blown veins occur when a needle or intravenous line is inserted into the vein but the vein is pricked and leaks.

Some of the first signs and symptoms you or the patient will notice include swelling, stinging, bruising, and darkening of the skin around the area.

Preventing Blown Veins

As you complete clinical rotations as a nursing student, you will quickly discover that it’s not always possible to prevent a blown vein.

However, by being careful in how you insert intravenous lines, you can decrease the possibility of this problem exponentially. These tips will help you prevent blown veins in the future.

  • Use smaller needles for smaller veins.
  • Try to avoid sticking veins that roll.
  • Avoid fishing around under the surface of the skin for the vein.
  • Insert the needle at a moderately shallow angle.
  • Instruct the patient to remain still during intravenous line insertion.

Some risk factors for blown veins simply cannot be avoided. For example, older individuals often have tough veins that are difficult to stick or that roll away from the needle.

Treating Blown Veins

Blown veins should be treated promptly to decrease patient discomfort and to ensure that intravenous medications are getting where they need to go.

The blown vein can no longer be used, and the nurse will need to start a new IV in a different area. In addition, direct pressure and an ice pack to the site can decrease swelling.

What Is a Collapsed Vein?

A collapsed vein occurs after a blown vein. Once the vein is punctured, it may collapse on itself. In addition, this venous problem could occur following repeated injuries to the vein, leading to swelling and eventually to complete collapse.

Although a collapsed vein could occur after a particularly traumatic blown vein, it most frequently happens to individuals receiving frequent, long-term intravenous drugs or to individuals habitually using IV drugs.

It could also occur if incorrect IV equipment is used, such as a blunt needle. Some patients receiving drugs that are particularly irritating to the lining of the veins could experience temporary venous collapse.

Some of the most common symptoms of a collapsed vein include the following:

  • Discomfort at the site
  • Skin darkening or discoloration
  • Cold tissues below the area of collapse
  • Tingling and itching in the area

Preventing Collapsed Veins

In some cases of legitimate medical treatments, it may be impossible to prevent collapsed veins because certain patients must receive long-term IV treatments.

However, by using the correct equipment, the smallest needle size possible, and the largest vein available for very irritating drugs, nurses can often avoid complete venous collapse.

Treating Collapsed Veins

Most of the time collapsed veins will heal on their own over a couple of weeks.

Once the swelling inside the vein decreases, blood flow will open up again. However, in some cases of repetitive collapse, a vein may close off permanently.

Key Traits of Blown and Collapsed Veins

Blown VeinCollapsed Vein


A leaky vein A vein that is no longer open
Cause A tear in the venous wall Repetitive venous injuries
Treatment Apply pressure and ice Stop injections to the area
Length of Problem Temporary Temporary or permanent

Important Takeaways

You may want to apply this information to your own or a loved one’s health care or you want to improve your own nursing practice as a student.

Either way, understanding what blown and collapsed veins are and what you can do to prevent or treat them can help you move past this potentially frightening circumstance.

While neither of these medical concerns is life-threatening in the majority of circumstances, each can cause quite a bit of discomfort and swelling.

Thankfully, these minor problems usually clear up in a couple of weeks or less.

IV Starting Guide
  • Rapid Response, Team (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 128 Pages - 10/11/2015 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

Final Thoughts

When you work with patients with chronic diseases or are dealing with those who are very elderly, you may come across collapsed or blown veins frequently.

Comment below with any tips you have for preventing or treating this problem.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is another name for a blown vein?

    Here are the other names for a blown vein, blown out vein, blown out IV, punctured vein.

  2. What happens when a vein blows?

    If you have a blown vein it means the vein has ruptured and blood is now leaking into the surrounding space.

  3. Can a blown vein hurt you?

    A blown vein will typically cause swelling, bruising and discomfort. It’s typically not life-threatening.

  4. How long does it take a blown vein to heal?

    Typically you’ll experience slight discomfort for a couple of days. Bruising will slowly lighten up over several days and probably disappear in about a week and a half.

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