Published flow rates for cannulae are derived from a test in which fluid runs through a perfectly straight cannula into an open receptacle. Laminar flow is expected in such a model in which the Hagen-Poisseuille formula tells us that flow is proportional to the fourth power of the radius. In this study manufacturers’ published flow rates were compared with an artifical vein model. Hartmann’s flowed faster than Gelofusine. For all cannulas flow was less than the manufacturers’ published rates. Although the radius was the biggest determinant of flow rate, the fourth power could not be used, suggesting a mixture of laminar and turbulent flow. The addition of pressurised infusions increased the flow rate with increasing pressure. Although the vein model used has limitations, and many other factors may influence flow rate in the clinical setting, the authors’ conclusions are helpful:
While the effect of radius is less than commonly believed, it is still important. However, clinicians should be aware of the limitations of increasing radius and use other strategies to increase flow when needed. These could include use of pressure, choice of fluid to be infused, and using multiple cannulae in parallel.
Fluid flow through intravenous cannulae in a clinical model
Anesth Analg. 2009 Apr;108(4):1198-202