Wired Hospital: Vein Illumination at Torrance Memorial Hospital

Needle sticks made quick

Patient is sitting on a chair with his hand up. Nurse is using a vein finder on his hand and trying to stick in an IV.

Imagine you’re performing a venipuncture that you can’t afford to mess up, like inserting an IV in a severely dehydrated child while her nervous parents stare at you. A simple procedure can become a frustrating, time-consuming game of hide-and-seek with darting, elusive vessels. It’s enough to make a seasoned nurse dread needles almost as much as most patients do.

Now, imagine that when you looked at that child’s arm, you could peer through her skin as if you had X-ray vision, seeing each vein outlined like a diagram in a textbook.

Sound like science fiction? It’s now a reality at hospitals like Torrance Memorial Medical Center, thanks to new vein illumination technology.

On The Beam

Several companies now offer vein viewing technology. Torrance Memorial uses the AccuVein AV400, a lightweight, handheld, rechargeable device that can be aimed in any direction or mounted on a stand for hands-free use.

How does it work? Most venous illumination devices use what’s called near-infrared light. They project two overlapping light beams: a visible one and an invisible infrared beam. The infrared light is at a frequency that is readily absorbed by hemoglobin in the patient’s blood, but reflects off of other tissue. When the visible light beam is projected over the infrared one, the veins and blood vessels appear darker, creating a visible “roadmap” of the patient’s vasculature.

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Vein illumination devices can typically detect veins up to 10mm deep, so you can readily see whether the vein twists and turns and how long it is, which is otherwise hard to determine.

“The AccuVein is very simple to use,” explains Torrance Memorial pediatric nurse Ada Maduno, RN, BSN, CPN. “When you shine the light onto the hand or whatever extremity you are going to use to start IVs or draw blood, the red light helps you see the veins much easier.”

Everybody Benefits

Vein illumination is noninvasive and completely painless. The device doesn’t normally need to touch the patient’s skin, and it can spare them a lot of poking and prodding. Device manufacturers claim vein illumination can increase the chances of a successful first stick by as much as 350 percent.

Maduno, who has worked in pediatrics for 21 years, says she still sometimes needs assistance from other nurses to safely hold or secure a patient. However, if she can quickly find the patient’s vein and get the IV started, she doesn’t need to call on other nurses for help with the insertion, which is quicker and less aggravating for all concerned.

Before Torrance Memorial bought the AV400, Maduno used a different tool that she describes as “just a spotlight.” It sometimes helped to visualize the patient’s veins, but was no comparison to the sophisticated vein illumination device. “Inserting an IV no longer takes 30 minutes with everybody taking turns. It’s one stick instead of trial and error,” she says.

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Word of Mouth

When Torrance Memorial first adopted vein illumination technology, parents of pediatric patients in the emergency department began to request that pediatric nurses perform IV cannulation because the device made the procedure so much less stressful for everyone involved.

Other units quickly took notice. “I went to the ER one night and showed them how to use the AccuVein,” Maduno says. “NICU started to borrow it, so we got three more.” Now, Torrance Memorial has a total of 10 vein illumination devices, including one each  in the ICU, PICU, pre-op, pediatrics, emergency and short stay.

“We provide as much support for our staff as we can in initiating the best patient care possible,” explains Barbara LeQuire, CNS, MSN, PNP, CENP, Torrance Memorial’s senior vice president of patient services and chief nurse executive. “These AccuVein devices assist in finding the most challenging vessels for our smallest and most frail patients.”

As a regular user of vein illumination technology for several years now, Maduno is enthusiastic about its benefits. “It speeds up patient care and improves patients’ safety and satisfaction,” she says. “I can’t emphasize that enough.”

DARIA WASZAK, RN, DNP, CEN, COHN-S, is a Long Beach native and SDSU and UCLA alumna. She has over 20 years of clinical and leadership experience and is currently an RN/BSN faculty member.

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