Fainting does sometimes occur as a result of venipuncture. A patient may experience a feeling of weakness or light-headedness or in severe cases, the loss of consciousness at any time during the venipuncture procedure.
Before the procedure
If a patient is aware that he/she gets light-headed, or has in the past fainted while having blood collected, the patient may alert the phlebotomist. The phlebotomist must then take appropriate measures to safeguard the patient during the procedure. For example, the phlebotomist may instruct the patient to lie down instead of sitting upright during the procedure. This practice may lessen the risk of patient fainting and eliminate the possibility of patient injury due to falling or sliding out of a draw chair.
During the procedure
If a patient faints during the venipuncture, immediately abort the procedure by gently removing the tourniquet and needle from the patient's arm, apply gauze and pressure to the skin puncture site and call for assistance. If the patient is seated, place the patient's head between his/her knees. A cold compress applied to the back of the neck may help to revive the patient more quickly. The use of an ammonia inhalant (smelling salts) to rouse the patient is considered an unsafe practice. The inhalant may cause irritation and/or anaphylactic shock in some patients. A typical fainting spell is self-limited and usually the patient comes around fairly quickly. However, the phlebotomist should stay with the patient for at least 15-30 minutes to ensure the patient has fully recovered from the fainting episode.
After the procedure
If the patient states that he/she feels dizzy after the blood collection is completed, again, as stated above, place the patient's head between his/her knees and apply a cold compress to the back of the neck. The phlebotomist should never direct the patient to an alternate location while the patient is experiencing dizziness. There is a great likelihood that the patient will faint while walking and be injured. It is never advisable for the phlebotomist to allow the patient to leave after the procedure until the patient is safely able to do so.
It is important to review your facility's specific procedures and know how to react appropriately if a patient experiences dizziness or faints during a blood collection.