Extravasation guidance

This leaflet advises about what you should do if the dye that that has been injected into your veins escapes into your surrounding soft tissue.

What is extravasation?

We may need to inject you with a dye, to help with the diagnosis for certain MRI and CT scans. We will usually inject you in your arm or hand. Sometimes this dye can escape from your vein at the place where we inject you. This is known as ‘extravasation’ and can result in a swelling. It can also cause you temporary pain but this should not last more than half an hour.  

Immediate help from staff 

If you do experience extravasation we will apply pressure to the place where you have been injected and lift your affected arm. We will sometime apply a cold compress and, if possible, we will complete the scan. We may need to give you another injection but we will discuss this will you. 

For severe incidents a doctor will review your arm prior to you leaving the department.

What you can do at home

This is usually a minor injury not requiring treatment but to reduce any pain:

  • You can massage the affected area.
  • Lift your arm if it is swollen. At night you can use pillows to elevate it.
  • Apply an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables for no longer than 15 minutes at a time. Do not apply the ice pack or frozen vegetables to the skin directly - a clean cloth must be used to prevent you getting frostbite on your skin.

  • You can take over the counter painkillers to help with any pain.

Things to be aware of

Seek medical attention from your GP or an emergency department if you experience any of the following:

  • Increased pain, which is not eased by painkillers.
  • Increased swelling of your arm or hand.
  • Change in colour of your arm or hand.
  • Pins and needles or altered sensation in your arm or hand.
  • Blistering or an ulcer developing close to the injection site. 

How to contact us

For queries following your MRI scan call the MRI department: 0117 414 1250 (Monday to Friday 8am - 8pm).

For queries following your CT scan call the CT department: 0117 414 1125 (Monday to Friday 8am - 8pm).

Outside of these hours please contact your GP or an emergency department.

If you or the individual you are caring for need support reading this leaflet please ask a member of staff for advice.

© North Bristol NHS Trust. This edition published May 2019. Review due May 2021. NBT003212


Extravasation guidance