Here’s What Happens When Your Child Needs A Catheter Or IV:

Water, blood, saliva— there are plenty of liquids inside your child’s body. They all play an important role in keeping your child healthy. However, sometimes your child may need to have a liquid, such as medication, injected, or they may need to have liquid, such as urine, removed.

Fortunately, these processes are both simple and easy by using small tubes called IVs and catheters. An IV — which means intravenous or “within a vein” — is a small straw used to put liquid substances directly into a vein. IVs can be used to inject medication, fluids, or other nutrition straight to your child’s bloodstream so they can start healing right away.

A catheter is a small tube used to drain urine from the bladder. These may be used for diagnostic testing, such as an X-ray or nuclear medicine study.

Both of these devices provide the medical care that your child needs and allow their physician to diagnose and treat them effectively.

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Ask A Radiology Child Life Specialist

Phone 402-955-4042 

Make An Appointment

Phone 402-955-6799

What Happens During An IV Injection?

Being prepared for what happens during an IV injection can help you and your child know what to expect. The following steps will occur during an IV injection:

  1. A nurse will place a tourniquet (rubber band) on their arm, which will give your child’s arm a tight squeeze or hug. This allows the nurse to see their veins better.
  2. The nurse will use cold, wet soap to clean the area where the IV will be placed. You and your child can choose if Pain Ease would be beneficial for your child to help decrease pain associated with the IV placement. Pain Ease is sprayed for 10-15 seconds on the area where the IV will be placed, and it creates a cold feeling on the skin similar to putting your hand in snow.
  3. After the soap or Pain Ease, the IV will be placed. There will be an initial poke using a needle to get the straw in the right spot and into the vein. Once the straw is in the right spot, the needle is removed and only the straw is left in your child’s vein. The nurse will cover the area with tape in order to keep it in the right spot.
  4. The medication, fluid, or other nutrition will be injected.
  5. The nurse or radiology tech will remove the straw and place a bandage over the injection site once the IV is done being used.

What Happens During A Catheter Placement?

Being prepared for what happens during a catheter placement can help you and your child know what to expect. The following steps will occur during a catheter placement:

  1. A child life specialist will meet with you and your child to help explain the procedure so your child can understand it, show you pictures of the camera and room the procedure will occur in, and help your child develop a positive coping plan.
  2. For the catheter placement, boys will lay flat on their back with straight legs. Girls will lie on their back making butterfly wings with their legs.
  3. The nurse will clean your child’s opening where urine comes out (penis for boys and near the vagina for girls) with a cold, wet, brown soap on a cotton swab once, then place lidocaine jelly (for numbing) in the area. The lidocaine will sit for 3 minutes to take effect. Then, your child will be cleaned twice with cold, wet, brown soap before inserting the catheter.
  4. When the catheter is being inserted, your child may still feel an uncomfortable pinch-like feeling. Deep breathing can help reduce this sensation. Once the catheter is in the correct position, your child may feel like they need to go to the bathroom. This is a normal sensation that decreases with relaxation and distraction.
  5. The nurse will place small pieces of tape to keep the catheter in the correct spot for pictures.
  6. Once your child’s procedure is completed, the nurse or technologist will remove the catheter.

How Can You Prepare And Support Your Child For An IV Or Catheter?

It’s normal if your child feels anxious about getting an IV or catheter. However, there are ways you can help them feel safe and comfortable during their procedure, such as:

  • Using developmentally appropriate words to explain to your child what will happen
  • Asking your doctor or nurse what pain management options are available for your child
  • Providing support by holding their hand, validating their feelings, and engaging your child in distraction, such as looking at a book, playing a game, playing with toys, or watching a movie
  • Participating in One Voice, an initiative to promote a calming environment by limiting the number of voices in the room so your child knows who to focus on, such as a parent or procedural staff professional
  • Practicing deep breathing, which can help them relax during stressful experiences, at home by pretending to blow out birthday candles or blowing bubbles
  • Displaying a calm demeanor — your child picks up on your anxiety and often mirrors it.
  • Meet with one of our child life specialists — experts who can explain catheters and IVs in child-friendly terms

Do you have more questions related to your child’s IV or catheter placement? Contact the Radiology Child Life Specialist at 402-955-4042 or the Radiology Department at 402-955-5602.

What To Do Next

For Patients

Your child will need an order from a provider to schedule a radiology procedure. Once the order is placed, call 402-955-6799 to schedule the procedure.

For Referring Providers

The Physicians’ Priority Line is your 24-hour link to pediatric specialists at Children’s for referrals, emergency and urgent consults, physician-to-physician consults, admissions, and transport services. Call 855-850-KIDS (5437).

Learn more about referring patients.


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