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Could vein finders reduce the number of needlesticks?

April 28, 2015

There has been a lot of online conversation lately about whether or not a new technology to help healthcare workers to identify veins could actually help reduce the number of needlestick injuries suffered.

Vein visualization technology works by using LED infrared light to detect the hemoglobin in the blood, which absorbs the light. This means that when a nurse holds the device above the skin, veins are highlighted next to the rest of the tissue. With various models on the market, each works in a slightly different way, with one even being able to create a digital image of the veins on the back of the skin.

However, would these devices be more of a distraction than an aid?

With or without the use of visualization technology, drawing blood from veins is still a process that is not simple and requires the skills, patience and perseverance of the healthcare worker involved. 

Talking about the use of such technology in hospitals, Lisa Emrich writes for Health Central: "I have to say that even with vein visualization devices, nurses have to rely upon their skills, and a bit of faith, to access veins that simply cannot be seen by the naked eye or infrared light. 

"These devices do not magically make the process simple. So often with me, the vein finder simply provided confirmation that there were indeed NOT sufficient veins in the area being searched."

With such devices in use, it's possible that fewer needlestick injuries would be caused as there would be more certainty when placing a needle into the vein, which would mean that using multiple needles or having to fiddle with the needle would become more rare.

This should also mean that patients feel more comfortable and that, in turn, would lower the risk of sudden movement, which can easily cause a needlestick injury to either the patient or the healthcare worker concerned.

But what do people who are actually conducting the blood draws think about the devices? Are they a help or a hindrance?

Initial research presented at the 2014 Infusion Nurses Society Annual Convention found that 81 per cent of nurses felt more capable of inserting an IV when they had the use of vein visualizing devices. 

In an AccuVein survey, which produces one type of device that is currently being used by around 3,000 facilities across the US, found that 93 per cent of respondents gave a facility a higher satisfaction score if it used vein visualization technology. The research also found that most of the patients taking part in the survey would be willing to travel further to get to a facility that used such a device if given the option.

However, further research is needed to determine whether or not vein visualization technology can actually reduce needlestick injuries and for the meantime it will depend on individual healthcare workers whether the device makes them feel more comfortable or not.

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