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Ask the (Student) Nurse! Intraosseous IV Edition

You know how when you go into the hospital for something, the first thing they do is stick a big needle in your arm and attach it to an IV so they can give you fluids and medicine quickly? Did you ever wonder what they do if they just absolutely cannot get a needle into one of your veins? Read on to learn about intraosseous IVs – if you have a strong stomach!

“Intra” means “within,” and “os” is Latin for “bone.” That’s right – an intraosseous IV is an IV that goes into your bone. The long bones in your arms and legs are hollow, and inside them are veins, along with arteries and the bone marrow that makes your red blood cells. Those veins work just as well as the ones in your hands or inner elbows for running IV fluids, you just have to get through the bone to access them. So how do you get to them?

With a freaking drill. Placement of an intraosseous IV is the craziest, most insane thing I have ever seen done on a human being – and I watch videos of surgeries for entertainment. You can use a manual punch, which is basically a cylinder with a very sharp needle sticking out the end, which you press against the patient’s skin as hard as you can, until it punches through the bone, or an electric drill, which looks and sounds exactly like the kind of electric drill you’d buy at Home Depot and use to put up new bookshelves. And yet, it’s not particularly painful; patients say it’s no worse than getting a regular IV put in your arm.

Want to see? Fair warning: These videos involve a little bit of blood and a lot of drilling holes into people’s legs and chests. There’s no screaming or terrible pain – just a very freaky and amazing medical procedure that might save your life if you are desperately dehydrated and the ER nurses just cannot find a viable vein to stick a needle in.

This one is a perfect view of drilling into a leg, right below the knee. It’s just like drilling a hole in a piece of wood, except it’s someone’s freaking leg bone! You can see they’ve painted Betadine in a big circle around the insertion to keep it free of bacteria; that’s what all that yellow-brown stuff is.

The next one is a bit long: Skip to about 1:15 if you want to just see the action part. This is an Army soldier during medical training, using a manual punch to drill into a man’s chest.

Author’s Note: I need material for next week’s post! Send me your weird medical problems, diseases, drug questions, or freaky YouTube videos you think the world needs to know about! E-mail me at AskQueenjulie@persephonemagazine. If you have a medical question, but you don’t want the world to know about it, send it in and let me know you prefer privacy, and I’ll answer you without posting it here.

By Queenjulie

I’m becoming a nurse because I really like sticking needles in people. I also like gangrene, benign cysts, crepitus, and weird lung sounds. I watch videos of IV insertions on YouTube for fun, and I make my kids let me practice using my stethoscope on them. I no longer hold my husband's hand while we're watching tv; now I hold his wrist so I can keep an eye on his pulse rate. He's remarkably tolerant.

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