Setting up an Intravenous Infusion

Original Author: Ollie Jones
Last Updated: December 24, 2017
Revisions: 10

Intravenous (IV) therapy is the infusion of fluid directly into the vein of a patient, usually via a cannula. There are various indications for the administration of fluid, such as replacement of electrolytes, restoration of blood volume or maintenance in the surgery-staved patient.

IV therapy can also be used in the administration of drugs (such as in chemotherapy) –  it has a fast action as the medicine is delivered straight into the vein.

In this article, we shall look at the principles behind setting up an intravenous fluid infusion.

Fluid Bag Information

Before setting up an intravenous fluid infusion, it is important to check the fluid bag. Although there are different types of fluid, the bags all have a similar structure and labelling.

  • Type of fluid
  • Expiry date of fluid
  • Port for injection
  • Port for insertion of giving spike

It is important to check that the bag is intact, the fluid is not cloudy, and there is no particulate matter present.


Introduce yourself to the patient, check the patient details, and check the prescription chart

  • Note the type of fluid, volume, and time to be given over
  • Check for any allergies

Explain the procedure to the patient and gain their consent

Check the fluid bag for any cloudiness or particulate matter present

  • Do not use the bag if any such impurities are present

Remove the outer packing of the bag and hang it up on a drip stand

Open the giving set and close the flow control using the roller-ball clamp on the line

Remove the cover from the port on the bag by twisting and breaking it off

Insert the spike into the port, without touching the end

Half fill the filling chamber by squeezing it then release the roller ball clamp to allow the fluid to run through the giving set

  • Ensure no bubbles are in the line
  • Clamp off the roller ball

Decontaminate your hand and don apron and gloves

Clean the hub of the bionector with chlorhexidine wipe, then flush the cannula with saline

Attach the giving set to the bionector

Set the infusion rate by adjusting the roller ball

Calculating the Drip Rate

The drip rate refers to the number of drops of fluid that enter the filling chamber each minute. The drip rate is set manually, and determines the speed at which the fluid is infused into the patient. It is calculated as follows:

First calculate the number of mls/hr

  • E.g. 1L bag of normal saline to be given over 8 hours = 1000mls/8hrs = 125mls/hr

Then calculate the number of mls/min

  • E.g. 125mls/hr = 125mls/60mins = 2mls/min

For a standard giving set, 20 drops in 1ml

Finally, calculate the number of drops per minute

  • 2mls/min = 40 drops/min

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