New technique aids location of veins beneath the skin

Scientists have come up with a brilliant way of making the process of taking blood or positioning cannulas easier. The new technique relies on the ability of blood haemoglobin to absorb near infrared light, and the surrounding tissue to reflect it. This creates a digital image of the blood vessels under the skin, allowing the precise positioning of the needle to draw blood or administer drugs.

The readout comes from a device that is easy to use and relatively cheap to maintain, with some portable devices costing as little as £40.

This new technology has been marketed by a number of companies, under the trade names “AccuVein”,  “EasyVein”, “VeinViewer” and “Veinlite”. An Australian Red Cross study in 2014 showed that 53.4% of blood donors would be more likely to donate blood if devices such as “AcuVein” were used. And the vein visualisation technology was beneficial in 71.4% of cases where veins were not visible to the naked eye.

In the UK, “AccuVein” was licensed by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) for the NHS in 2014. Such devices can be used when taking blood or setting up IV lines for drug administration. Vein visualisation technology is particularly useful in obese, elderly and dark skinned patients where locating veins may be more difficult.

Tests have shown that it reduces anxiety, pain and delays in treatment, a trio of positive results for both patient and health professionals.