The study evaluated the effects of different techniques used to secure intravenous (i.v.) catheters. An angiocatheter attached to standard i.v. tubing was taped to human forearm using a standard taping method. A calibrated piezoelectric force transducer was attached to the i.v. tubing. The force applied along the longitudinal axis to pull out the taped catheter was measured and recorded on paper. Three tape types, Curity, Leukopor and Transpore, were evaluated alone, with benzoin skin pretreatment and with mastisol pretreatment. A randomized 3 x 3 block design with 20 replications per block was utilized, and a total of 180 pullout tests were performed on two adult volunteers. Without pretreatment, the forces required to dislodge catheters were (means +/- SEM) 46 +/- 2, 37 +/- 2 and 38 +/- 2 Newtons for Curity, Leukopor and Transpore tape, respectively. Corresponding values for mastisol pretreatment (64 +/- 1, 64 +/- 3 and 52 +/- 3 Newtons) were greater (P < 0.05) for each tape compared with benzoin (54 +/- 3, 53 +/- 2 and 40 +/- 2 Newtons) and no pretreatment. The most frequent failure mode for Transpore tape was by tape fracture, for Curity tape was by separation from the skin of tape and catheter as a single unit, and for Leukopor tape was by catheter separation while tape remained attached to skin (P < 0.001). The data suggest that the application of mastisol prior to taping i.v. catheters with Curity or Leukopor tape helps to minimize the risk of accidental dislodgement.