Extravasation of Noncytotoxic Drugs: A Review of the Literature

Ann Pharmacother. 2014 Jul;48(7):870-886. doi: 10.1177/1060028014527820. Epub 2014 Apr 8.


Objective: Extravasation is a potential complication associated with intravenous therapy administration. Inadvertent leakage of medications with vesicant properties can cause severe tissue necrosis, which can lead to devastating long-term consequences. Recognizing potential agents is an essential step in mitigating the risk of extravasation.

Data source: A literature search was carried out using PubMed with the following key words: extravasation, soft tissue injury, phlebitis, and infiltration, from January 1961 through January 2014.

Study selection and data extraction: The publications were screened manually and reviewed to identify reports for medications that included synonyms of the International Nonproprietary Name, while excluding antineoplastic agents, radiographic contrast material, investigational or nonmarketed drugs, and animal data, to yield 70 articles. Furthermore, reference citations from publications were also reviewed for relevance and yielded 4 articles.

Data synthesis: We discovered 232 cases of extravasation involving 37 agents (in order of frequency): phenytoin, parenteral nutrition, calcium gluconate, potassium chloride, calcium chloride, dopamine, dextrose solutions, epinephrine, sodium bicarbonate, nafcillin, propofol, norepinephrine, mannitol, arginine, promethazine, vancomycin, tetracycline, dobutamine, vasopressin, sodium thiopental, acyclovir, amphotericin, ampicillin, cloxacillin, gentamicin, metronidazole, oxacillin, penicillin, amiodarone, albumin, furosemide, lipids, lorazepam, immunoglobulin, morphine, and sodium valproate. Potential properties contributing to extravasation include the following: pH, osmolarity, diluent, vasoactive properties, and inactive ingredients. Antidotes and supportive care agents used in the management of these cases of extravasation include hyaluronidase, phentolamine, terbutaline, topical anesthetics (such as lidocaine and prilocaine cream), topical antimicrobials (such as silver sulfadiazine and chlorhexidine), topical debridement agents (collagenase ointment), topical steroids, and topical vasodilators (nitroglycerin).

Conclusion: Data on the management of noncytotoxic extravasations is sparse, consisting primarily of case reports and anecdotal evidence. Fortunately, this adverse outcome is preventable and identification of vesicant agents plays a pivotal role. The intent of this review is to provide a reference identifying noncytotoxic vesicants and the management of extravasations associated with specific agents.

Keywords: extravasation; infiltration; noncytotoxic.

Publication types

  • Review