Slippery Veins?

Hi everyone,

I've just had the blood tests before my second round of chemo, and even the most experienced guy at the clinic, who is amazing, couldn't get enough blood out of my arms.

(I have several holes in each elbow, and now an allergic reaction to the tape on both elbows...)

He explained that a lot of chemo drugs made veins "slippery," which makes them very hard to draw blood from.

They could get the needles in after a lot of prodding, but they just wouldn't bleed - apparently because the veins kept slipping.

Has anyone else been told this, and better yet found a way around it?

I have problematic veins at the best of times, and I'm not looking forward to the IV on Friday if they've learned to run away from needles...

11 Replies

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  • It's such a pain and a worry, isn't it.

    The solution is to have a PICC line or a Portacath inserted. (lots of discussion on here about them - do a search ). Talk to the chemo nurses about it. They then do both the blood tests and the chemo infusions through it. I've had both and both are fine and certainly a lot less hassle than chasing the veins....

  • Weird. I had something similar on monday. After finally managing to draw blood i started on chemo and my vein looked like a red tree going up my arm. A heat pack helped.

  • I've had problem veins though no-one has called them 'slippery'. I have a port-a-cath in my chest now and it's solved the problem. I had a PICC line for a while but reacted to the plasters and as it has to be covered all the time you sound as though you'd be better off with the port-a-cath. I'm fine about going for treatment now. I used to dread it as in addition to the pain of needles I was scared I wouldn't get my treatment. Do ask them. I had to persuade them to change to the port-a-cath as the sister in charge said they wouldn't change it once I had the PICC line in. I hadn't heard of the port-a-cath when they put the PICC in and was annoyed that they hadn't suggested that as an option. I think some of them didn't like it as it can be tricky getting the needle in the right place when I go for treatment but we've found out that if we put the chair back so I'm half lying down it's much easier. I think more of us will be having these from now on as we survive longer so the nurses will be getting used to them.

  • Thanks for the replies,

    I mentioned the port-a-cath at one of my appointments (Not that name, but same concept,) and none of the doctors/nurses were keen on the idea. A lot of that appoint did the "in one ear, out the other" thing because I was quite stressed, but they didn't want to do it because apparently a 6 round course didn't call for it.

    None of the women in the chemo ward have them either, I'm wondering if the hospital just doesn't use them much?

    On day 10 after my first chemo I ended up in the Emergency Department with a 38deg C temp, and they had to use the needles they normally use on babies to get blood out because apparently that day my veins were really narrow (never been told that before.)

    I was thinking of taking one of those clickable heat packs next time and seeing it that brings the veins up.

    And adding an extra liter to my "Be as hydrated as possible" trick, lol.

  • The nurses had trouble getting my veins. The solution they came up with was that I stood with my arm under running warm water. They then wrapped my arm up to get me from sink to chasir and it kept it warm enough for them to get the needle in.

    Ann x

  • My chemo nurse puts a warm pack on my hands before she tries to get the vein. She got it in on the second go.

    (I have a dodgy vein in the back of my hand that looks really good, but I apparently ripped an IV out of it in recovery a few years ago - I woke up with the IV in the bed leaking every where... EVERYONE tries that one first and fails.)

  • Oh dear this is all too familiar to me and I am certain to many others on this site. I frequently feel like a pin cushion. Thank goodness I am not needle phobic. I suspect if they need regular access for chemotherapy they may fit a more permanent solution. This is not an uncommon problem for them so they will find a way around it. Good Luck for Friday. JacJac

  • Hi I had a PICC line fitted and that was for a 6 cycle course of chemo (third time round) and to be honest I wished I'd had it on the second time round when it was suggested. I'm surprised they have said no that 6 cycles don't warrant it (unless I've misunderstood). I only have one vein left in one elbow which is any good now so if there is a next time (please god no) then I definitely wouldn't hesitate to have a PICC line. Hope you get this issue sorted! Kathy xxx

  • I so feel for you, am dreading this too. My one chemo dose last time they used the tiniest needle I've ever seen.

    When I went in for my surgery they had to knock me out before inserting canulas as my veins are apparently not straight. I've got a huge purple bruise halfway up my arm and am covered in green/yellow bruises, terrified this is going to be the norm now. I did find having lots to drink helps trouble is keep running to the loo as the catheter made my bladder weaker and am trying to do pelvic floor exercises. It never ends lol.

    I'd be really interested to hear how you get on.

    LA xx

  • Well use arnica gel or cream for all those poor bruises. Keep arms and hands warm when going for treatment and wear gloves. Hydration is important. My veins tend to go into hiding and they have to use small canula. However one phelmbotamist in the lab said to me that twice is enough to attempt to get a vein and that some nurses and doctors are better at it than others. Am finished treatment about seven weeks and already my veins are not shy anymore

  • I drank about 2.5 liters yesterday... IV went in first go with minimal digging after having a hotpack on for 10 minutes.

    Gobsmacked but very happy ☺

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