Nurses, phlebotomists, and EMTs all need to locate veins in patients, and all of them can tell you it’s not easy. Repeated sticks cause trauma and delay needed treatment. Now there is a solution for this common problem.
Lumped under the term “vein finder” are a group of devices that assist medical personnel with venipuncture. Owners who are not medical professionals also use them to do treatments at home.
In this review, we’ll cover three kinds of portable vein finding devices that are affordable enough to be used by just about anyone. First, let’s discuss why these tools work so well.
What is a vein finder and how does it work?
Some of us are lucky enough to have prominent veins that are easy to locate when we go in for a blood draw. But much of the population, namely children, the elderly, and persons with dark-colored skin, have veins that are hard to see.
The hemoglobin in our blood absorbs infrared light. A vein finder that shines infrared light on skin causes veins to become much more visible to the naked eye. Infrared is at the red end of the color spectrum, so device manufacturers include red lamps as well as infrared to make the light visible.
Depending on the power of the device, it may only penetrate a few millimeters into skin so only superficial vasculature is easy to find. But many healthcare professionals are reporting that vein finder devices with infrared light greatly speed up their ability to locate veins successfully in many kinds of patients.
There is also another kind of device that is passive; it doesn’t shine light. Instead, it alters the light entering the wearer’s eyes similar to a pair of sunglasses. We’ll cover that kind too.
Let’s begin with the top illuminated vein finder devices that use infrared and near-infrared light.
Vein Finder Adult and Pediatric EMS Pro by Veinlite
Veinlite introduced a series of illuminated vein finders for sale to the public as well as medical professionals. We’ll cover three of them in this review.
We’ll start with the EMS Pro, designed to be affordable and very portable. Veinlite says this model is good to use on both children and adults. It’s very simple to operate as it has only an on/off switch and runs off two AA batteries.
It looks a little like a thick toy slingshot because it has a handle topped by a rounded C-shaped opening. The arms of the C-shape have twenty-four LED bulbs embedded in them. The visible light it emits is a bright white.
The device must be held against the skin to work. In fact, here are the instructions for how to use it:
How to use a Veinlite EMS Pro vein finder:
- When looking for veins, place the device against the skin perpendicular to the direction of the vein
- Move it forwards and backwards until a vein is located
- Rotate the device 90-degrees until it’s parallel to the vein
- Press down gently to keep the vein in place and push back gently to stretch the skin
- Insert the needle into the vein through the opening of the device (the C-shape opening)
Veinlite strongly recommends the use of disposable plastic covers (which are not sterile) and germicidal wipes since the EMS Pro touches a patient’s skin. They do not recommend using alcohol on the device because this can fog the clear plastic window protecting the lights.
The batteries are predicted to last between 3 to 5 hours of continuous use. When they begin to get low, the green light below the power switch will turn orange. If it begins blinking red, there is only about an hour of runtime time left.
Since the EMS Pro is made for use on both adults and pediatric patients, it comes with an adapter that limits the C-shape opening size for infants and small children.
What are people saying about the Veinlite EMS Pro? There are many positive comments on how it has helped speed up vein finding in a variety of patients for a variety of exams and treatments. There is some debate on whether it’s equally effective on patients with darker skin, but it does seem to work well on children.
Veinlite EMS Adult Baby Transilluminator Vein Finder
Instead of white light like the EMS Pro, the Veinlite EMS (not Pro) Transilluminator reveals veins with sixteen colored LEDs. It has twelve orange and four red bulbs. It has a lower cost than the EMS Pro, but it’s also recommended for use by emergency response teams.
Like the other Veinlite model described above, this one is very simple to use. It runs off two AA batteries with an estimated runtime of 6 hours of continuous use. It comes with an adapter for use with pediatric patients.
The EMS is more successful at locating veins in the scalp, forearms, and legs. It’s bright enough to shine though a hand or foot of an infant similar to a WeeSight.
What are people saying about the Veinlite EMS? It may not be as powerful as the EMS Pro, but it’s still reported to be helpful in locating veins, especially when ultrasound equipment is not available. Users strongly recommend dimming the room lights to make it easier to see veins. Many have said it helps a lot with cannulation of dark-skinned patients.
Veinlite LEDX Adult Transilluminator Vein Finder
Veinlite says that the LEDX is one of their most powerful transilluminator vein finders. It has thirty-two LEDS—24 orange and 8 red, and a larger opening. With the bigger size and brighter lights, this model is effective for finding deeper veins, veins on individuals with dark pigmentation, and veins on obese patients, too.
Instead of depending on alkaline batteries, the LEDX has a rechargeable Lithium-ion (LiPo) battery good for about 500 cycles, or about three years. It will run between 130 and 160 minutes of continuous use before it needs a refill. Unlike some locked-down devices, it is possible for the owner to replace it another LiPo battery when it reaches end of life.
Why would you prefer a LEDX over the other Veinlite models? It comes highly recommended for sclerotherapy treatments and vascular surgery. It’s also been cleared by the FDA and has a CE certification.
Venoscope II Transilluminator Adult / Baby Vein Finder
The Venoscope II Transilluminator also uses LED lights to help medical professionals locate veins. While its appearance isn’t as slick as the models from Veinlite, it’s usually a more affordable option with a lot of very positive reviews and comments from users.
The way it functions is very similar—it must be in contact with the skin and moved until it illuminates an appropriate vein for cannulation. It runs off three AA alkaline batteries.
One concern that potential buyers have is whether the Venoscope II gets too hot. The manufacturer states that even after 15 minutes of continuous use, it only heats up to 95 degrees F, less than normal human skin temperature.
While the lamp is said to run for at least 5000 hours before it burns out, the device is covered by a 1-year warranty.
Tips for using the Venoscope II vein finder:
- Dim the room lights if at all possible to make it easier to find veins
- Avoid bony areas and look for veins where there is at least some body fat
- Keep the device flush against the skin
Now let’s take a look at another type of vein finder which usually costs a lot less than the devices we just reviewed. Could this simple solution be effective enough to replace the others?
Illumivein® Portable Red LED Light Vein Finder Transilluminator
It looks a lot like a Maglite flashlight, this portable vein finder from Illumivein. It uses nine red-spectrum LEDs to help the user locate veins near the surface of the skin.
The LEDs are mounted in a small aluminum cylinder and are powered by three AAA batteries. The red light it emits makes veins look like shadows when it’s used in a darkened room.
How to use the Illumivein:
- Power on the device by pressing the button at the bottom
- Press the lighted end against skin and move it slowly side to side
- Look closely in the red glow surrounding the device for shadows indicating veins
- Lifting the light will reduce vein visibility
- Illumivein recommends searching for veins that follow a straight line
What do people say about the Illumivein? There is some debate about its effective on individuals with darker pigmentation. Some users recommend marking the vein before lifting the light since there is no opening to help focus on the injection site.
Before we end this review, we’ll cover one more option for finding veins easier. It’s passive, not active, because it doesn’t illuminate. Instead, it makes use of the light on hand to help a medical professional see veins better. There’s even one kind that works for colorblind users.
Paramedic Vein Glasses
O2Amp released their EMT Vein Glasses to help with various functions like vein finding, determining oxygen levels, cyanosis, rashes, and more. They say that these specially-made lenses make “veins appear to fluoresce.”
Even better, these glasses don’t need to be worn just for finding veins. They protect against UV exposure just like regular sunglasses, are impact-resistant, and have anti-static, anti-fog, and anti-scratch coatings.
O2Amp says that their glasses work best under sunlight or a strong indoor light. They highly recommend them for use with pediatric patients so that the first stick is the only one you have to make.
Tips for using the O2Amp Paramedic Vein Glasses:
- Put them on at least a couple of minutes ahead of time so your eyes can adjust
- Have plenty of indirect light, not flashlights, with not much glare (daylight seems to work best)
While some users fit these over their own personal eyewear, it may be possible to purchase uncut lenses that can be ground to the correct prescription.
If you happen to be colorblind, O2Amp also makes a version for you. See their description below.
Oxy-Iso Colorblindness Correction Glasses
These Oxy-Iso glasses from O2Amp put color back into the sight of colorblind users. While they can be used as vein finding glasses just like the ones we described above, they also grant the ability for the wearer to see pallor, blushes, and rashes.
One user, who said he was a surgeon, said that these lenses were life-changing for him. He can now tell the difference between bile and blood on sight, and he also enjoys nature more because he can see the true colors of flowers and birds.
Like the Paramedic Vein Glasses, the Oxy-Iso Colorblindness Correction Glasses are made to resist scratches and breaking. They protect against UV rays and have an anti-fog coating.
Why invest in a vein finding device?
This is a personal question—why would you want to invest in a vein finder device? Perhaps you are a medical professional who wants to improve your quality of service to others. Perhaps you have a need for locating veins at home for treatments. Either way, if you’re going to spend the money, you might as well choose a product that actually works.
Will you need protective covers for a vein finder?
If you’re using a vein finder as part of your profession on a variety of patients, please do plan on purchasing the disposable slip covers that manufacturers sell. They are made to protect against cross contamination, among other things.
If you are using a vein finder only on yourself or one patient, get advice on whether disposable covers are necessary for you to use. Please also follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean your vein finder so as to not damage it.
We favor the Venoscope and Veinlite devices as the best products in this review. While they are the most expensive, they are easy to use and almost guaranteed to work as long as you follow the directions.
The Illumivein is a much less expensive device, but it’s also a bit more difficult to use. There is no opening for the user to be able to make the stick without first removing the device, raising the risk that the found vein will be lost in the process.
The vein finding glasses are a great accessory for any medical professional. While they may not be the best help for locating veins, they are all-around useful.
Safety when performing a stick
Venipuncture carries risks for both the person performing the stick as well as the patient. Here are some tips to keep both people safe. This is not medical advice, just suggestions to give you an idea. Please obtain training from a medical provider if at all possible.
First, does the patient have trouble with blood clotting, or do they have a blood-borne illness like hepatitis, or are they a carrier of MRSA?
Is there a place where blood shouldn’t be drawn, perhaps due to a prior surgery or treatment?
Have the patient sit or lie down
It’s better if they are at rest in case they have a bad reaction.
Cleanliness and protection against transmitting disease
According to the WHO (World Health Organization), it’s best to
- Wear a gown or coat to protect your clothing
- wash your hands
- put on gloves
- disinfect the puncture site with alcohol, starting by wiping in the center of the site towards the outside
- allow the alcohol to dry
- insert the needle and perform the draw or other action
- release the tourniquet (if there is one) before you withdraw the needle
- discard used needles into a puncture-resistant sharps container
- remove and discard gloves
- wash and dry your hands again
What to do in case you stick yourself by accident with a used needle
Wash the area immediately with anti-bacterial soap and water and encourage bleeding to cleanse the site. Keep a record of the patient’s name and contact information, if known, in case an infection develops.
How to clean up spilled blood
While wearing gloves, wipe up all the blood that you can. Dispose of wet cloths or paper towels. Then use a fresh solution of one part bleach to ten parts water. (Use 5.25% chlorine bleach.) Leave it sit for ten minutes before wiping and drying the area.
If the surface you’re cleaning would be damaged by bleach, you can use a weaker bleach solution (one part bleach to 100 parts water) and leave it in contact with the area for longer.
Please note that bleach loses effectiveness with time and exposure to sunlight, so making fresh mixtures is safer.
If you want to reduce the amount of time in takes to locate a suitable vein in a patient, a vein finder could be just what you need. If this is a regular part of your job, or if you have frequent treatments to perform for someone (like a hemophiliac), a vein finder is a worthwhile investment.