Hospital's latest technology saves time and pain
Diagnosed in 2000 with a rare form of leukemia, Sarah Johnson said she can’t remember the number of needle pricks she endured.
"They are too numerous to count," the 22-year-old Peorian said Monday. By her estimate, hospital staff usually took two to five tries before finding a vein to hook up an IV or draw blood. Johnson, whose cancer has been in remission for several years, said only once or twice did the nurse’s needle hit its mark the first time around.
Many other patients dread similar stings but officials at Methodist Medical Center hope a new machine will make horror stories like Johnson’s a thing of the past.
About six weeks ago, the hospital wheeled out the VeinViewer, a portable machine that focuses near-infrared light on the skin to reveal veins lying an 1/8 of an inch beneath the skin. Methodist currently owns two of the $30,000 machines — one for the surgery department; the other for the emergency room.
The device highlights the hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells, in the blood vessel as black lines against a green background, creating a real-time vascular road map medical staff can follow — something Johnson wishes she had available.
Tony Howard, administrative director for emergency services at Methodist, said the ideal candidates for the machine are infants, the elderly and people of color because healthy veins on them can be particularly difficult to find. Besides easing the pain, Howard said the VeinViewer tells caregivers if a patient has any suitable blood vessels in the first place. If the answer is no, patients can avoid some unnecessary poking.
"With this technology you’re going to eliminate all that right off the bat and you’re just going to say, ‘You know what, we’re not going to get an IV on this person let’s just go ahead and go to Plan B now instead of after four sticks later going to Plan B," he said.
Another added bonus is that the VeinViewer shows inner details of blood vessels.
"A lot of people have valves in their veins and it will show you exactly where those big fat knots are so you don’t stick there," nurse manager Margie Cobb said. Although the machine visual map is convenient for nurses, Cobb said they will still be encouraged to locate blood vessels the old-fashioned way by using their sense of touch.
The service also comes at no extra cost and has been met by users with open arms.
"They love it," Ellie Volz, a nurse in the hospital’s emergency department, said of the response from patients. "I do quite a few every shift that I work."
Volz said it also works well with dehydrated patients, those with blood disorders or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy since their veins become constricted. Obese patients probably will not see many benefits since their veins are often covered by too much fat and tissue.
Frank Radosevich II can be reached at (309) 686-3142 or firstname.lastname@example.org.