Complications occurring from diagnostic venipuncture

J Fam Pract. 1992 May;34(5):582-4.


Background: Venipuncture is the most common invasive medical procedure performed by health care providers. While venipuncture is considered to be reasonably safe, the present study investigated the incidence of serious complications occurring in an outpatient setting.

Methods: Venipuncture was performed on insurance applicants at their home or place of work. Four thousand fifty venipunctures were performed over a 3-year period. Minor complications were defined as bruising and hematoma at the venipuncture site. Serious complications were defined as cellulitis, phlebitis, diaphoresis, hypotension, near syncope, syncope, and seizure activity.

Results: Minor bruising and hematoma were fairly common, involving 12.3% of venipunctures, with minor bruising being the most common reaction. Serious complications were observed in 3.4% of patients. Diaphoresis with hypotension occurred in 2.6%. Syncope occurred in less than 1% of patients. There were no serious local reactions such as cellulitis or phlebitis observed in this study.

Conclusions: Serious complications can occur as a result of venipuncture even when only a small volume of blood is withdrawn; therefore, medical personnel should be prepared to provide appropriate care.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Blood Specimen Collection / adverse effects*
  • Bloodletting / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Hematoma / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Seizures / etiology
  • Sex Factors
  • Syncope / etiology*