Aim. This paper reports a review of the scientific evidence for elective replacement of peripheral intravenous catheters in adults in the absence of any clinical complications, with the aim being to reduce the incidence and severity of thrombophlebitis.
Background. The incidence of thrombophlebitis associated with peripheral intravenous catheters has been reported to range from 5·3% to 77·5%. Many factors that increase the risk for thrombophlebitis have been reported, of which time in situ is one. In Sweden, the recommended guideline is elective replacement of peripheral intravenous catheters every 12–24 hours.
Method. A systematic literature review was carried out in 2005 using the Cochrane Library, OvidMedline and CINAHL databases and hand searching of reference lists and with keywords catheterization, peripheral, thrombophlebitis and parenteral nutrition. The review included randomized controlled trials of elective replacement of peripheral intravenous catheters in adults. Three reviewers assessed the data found according to predetermined criteria.
Finding. Three randomized control trials met the inclusion criteria and were retrieved for critical appraisal. The samples in two of the trials included patients requiring total parenteral nutrition. Patients in the third trial were receiving crystalloid and drugs. Time intervals for elective replacement varied. Study quality and relevance were rated as ‘medium’ in two of the trials and as ‘low’ in the third trial.
Conclusion. Limited scientific evidence suggests that elective replacement of peripheral intravenous catheters reduces the incidence and severity of thrombophlebitis.