What is KVO in Infusion Pump: Significance and Risk Factors

by T

Updated March 20, 2024
In the realm of medical care, infusion pumps play a critical role in delivering fluids, medications, and nutrients into a patient's bloodstream at controlled rates. These devices are instrumental in various clinical settings, from hospitals to outpatient care facilities.

One essential feature often found in infusion pumps is KVO, short for Keep Vein Open. This article aims to delve into the significance of KVO in infusion pumps, its purpose, pros and cons, considerations when using KVO, risk factors, and common FAQs.

What is KVO in Infusion Pump?

KVO, or Keep Vein Open, is a feature incorporated into infusion pumps to maintain a small flow rate of fluids, usually saline solution or another compatible fluid, to ensure the patency of an intravenous (IV) line when no other fluids or medications are being administered.

It is typically set at a minimal flow rate, just enough to prevent the IV line from clotting or collapsing, hence the term "keep vein open."

Significance of KVO in Infusion Pump

The significance of KVO in infusion pumps lies in its ability to maintain IV access and prevent complications associated with clotting or occlusion of the IV line. IV lines are commonly used for delivering medications, fluids, blood products, and nutrients directly into the bloodstream.

Without KVO, there's a risk of the IV line becoming blocked, which could lead to delays in treatment, potential discomfort for the patient, and the need for line replacement, increasing the risk of infection and other complications.

Pros and Cons of KVO in Infusion Pump

1. Maintains Patency: KVO helps maintain the patency of the IV line, reducing the need for line replacements and minimizing the risk of complications such as thrombosis or occlusion.

2. Readiness for Emergency Medications: By keeping the IV line open, KVO ensures rapid access for emergency medication administration without the need to flush the line, saving crucial time in critical situations.

3. Patient Comfort: Continuous infusion at a minimal rate is less likely to cause discomfort or irritation at the infusion site compared to intermittent flushing of the line.


1. Fluid Overload: Continuous infusion, even at a minimal rate, may contribute to fluid overload in certain patients, particularly those with compromised cardiac or renal function. Careful monitoring is necessary to prevent this complication.

2. Risk of Contamination: Prolonged use of KVO without strict aseptic techniques increases the risk of microbial contamination of the IV line, potentially leading to bloodstream infections or sepsis.

3. Cost and Resource Utilization: Continuous infusion, even at a minimal rate, consumes resources such as fluids and pump battery life. In settings with limited resources, this may be a consideration.

Considerations When Using KVO in Infusion Pump

Several factors should be considered when using KVO in infusion pumps to ensure safe and effective patient care:

1. Patient Condition: Assess the patient's clinical condition, fluid status, and comorbidities to determine the appropriateness of using KVO and the optimal infusion rate.

2. Fluid Selection: Choose an appropriate fluid for KVO that is compatible with the patient's needs and underlying medical conditions. Normal saline is commonly used but may not always be ideal.

3. Monitoring: Regularly monitor the infusion site, fluid intake, and electrolyte levels to detect any signs of complications such as fluid overload or electrolyte imbalances.

4. Aseptic Technique: Strict adherence to aseptic technique during setup, maintenance, and discontinuation of the IV line is crucial to minimize the risk of infection.

5. Patient Education: Educate patients and caregivers about the purpose of KVO, potential complications, and signs of infusion-related problems to promote adherence and early detection of issues.

Risk Factors with KVO

Despite its benefits, KVO is not without risks. Some potential risk factors associated with KVO include:

1. Infection: Prolonged use of KVO increases the risk of infection due to microbial colonization of the IV line, particularly in immunocompromised patients or those with indwelling catheters.

2. Thrombosis: Continuous infusion, even at low rates, may promote thrombus formation within the IV line or at the infusion site, leading to occlusion and impaired blood flow.

3. Fluid Overload: Patients with compromised cardiac or renal function are at increased risk of fluid overload with continuous infusion, potentially exacerbating existing conditions or causing pulmonary edema.

4. Electrolyte Imbalance: Continuous infusion of fluids may disrupt electrolyte balance, particularly in patients receiving large volumes or those with preexisting electrolyte abnormalities.


1. Is KVO necessary for all patients receiving IV therapy? 

KVO is not always necessary but is often employed to maintain IV access between medication administrations or in patients who require continuous access for frequent blood sampling or emergency medication administration.

2. Can KVO be used with any type of fluid? 

While normal saline is commonly used for KVO, other compatible fluids may be suitable depending on the patient's clinical needs and the institution's protocols.

3. How often should the IV line be flushed when using KVO? 

The frequency of flushing the IV line when using KVO depends on institutional policies, patient-specific factors, and the type of fluid being infused. Regular assessment of the IV site and line patency guides flushing frequency.

4. Are there any alternatives to KVO for maintaining IV patency?

Alternatives to KVO include intermittent flushing of the IV line with saline or heparin solutions, though these methods may not be as efficient in preventing clotting or occlusion.


KVO plays a vital role in maintaining IV access and preventing complications associated with clotting or occlusion of the IV line in infusion pumps. While it offers several benefits, careful consideration of patient factors, monitoring, and adherence to aseptic techniques are essential to mitigate potential risks.

By understanding the significance, pros, cons, and risk factors associated with KVO, healthcare providers can optimize its use and ensure safe and effective patient care.


1.  American Society of Anesthesiologists. (2019). Basics of Intravenous Therapy. https://www.asahq.org/education-and-career/education-resources/anesthesia-101/basics-of-intravenous-therapy

2. Infusion Nurses Society. (2020). Infusion Therapy Standards of Practice. https://www.ins1.org/standards-of-practice/

3. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2019). Intravenous fluid therapy in adults in hospital: quality standard. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/qs195
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