Randomized trial of tourniquet vs blood pressure cuff for target vein dilation in ultrasound-guided peripheral intravenous access

Published:April 18, 2014DOI:



      Ten percent of the time, peripheral intravenous access (PIV) is not obtained in 2 attempts in the emergency department. Typically, a tourniquet is used to dilate the target vein; but recent research showed that a blood pressure (BP) cuff improves dilation, which may translate to increased PIV success.


      We sought to determine if there is improved success in obtaining ultrasound-guided PIV using a BP cuff vs a tourniquet in “difficult stick” patients.


      This is a prospective, randomized, single-blinded trial. Adult patients requiring PIV with at least 2 prior failed attempts were enrolled. Patients were assigned to tourniquet or BP cuff for target vein dilation randomly. Nurses prepared the patient for PIV attempt by either placing a BP cuff inflated to 150 mm Hg or placing a tourniquet on the chosen extremity. The extremity was draped to blind the physician to assignment. Physicians then attempted ultrasound-guided PIV. Failures were defined as IVs requiring greater than 3 ultrasound-guided attempts or 30 minutes, or patient intolerance. If failure occurred, the physician was unblinded; and the patient could be crossed over and reattempted.


      Thirty-eight patients were enrolled. The success rate for the tourniquet group (n = 17) and BP cuff group (n = 21) was 82.4% and 47.6%, respectively (P = .04). There were no differences between groups for vessel depth, diameter, or procedure time. Six in the BP cuff group were crossed over and had successful PIV obtained with tourniquet.


      Tourniquet is superior to BP cuff for target vein dilation in ultrasound-guided PIV.
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