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Tasting Saline Flush

As an Emergency Nurse, I've noticed this, too, with our peripheral lines. (Our central line pts. are usually too sick to care). I didn't believe it before when I rarely heard of it (Why, NS just "blends right in with the body.") It does seem more frequent now (~15%, and more likely with rapid push). Nowadays, however, more lines are locked than infused or TKO'ed. I now caution patients about it. I'll have to try the "hold your breath" tip!



Tom Trimble, RN CEN

This is call dysguesia and

This is call dysguesia and occurs with all brands of saline flush. It can be related to the other medications that the patient is taking or directly to the disease itself. Several years ago, I wrote a white paper on this and did not find any real physiological explanation for it happening.  Many drugs cause the same or similar problems.


Lynn Hadaway, M.Ed., RN, BC, CRNI

Lynn Hadaway, M.Ed., NPD-BC, CRNI

Lynn Hadaway Associates, Inc.

PO Box 10

Milner, GA 30257


Office Phone 770-358-7861

rivka livni
Yes, I hear it from
Yes, I hear it from patients, I would say about 20-30%. I am sure there are other nurses who will agree.
When I was a pt back in
When I was a pt back in 2005, I had this happen to me via a peripheral iv.  I never believed my pts until it happened to me. 
Jamie L Hamm
I have found this with some

I have found this with some patients but can not be an indicator of placement.  You can be  up the IJ with a PICC and they can still say they taste it.  In my practice as a floor nurse I would here this frequently with central lines.

Jamie Hamm


Ok.  I'm a patient, with a

Ok.  I'm a patient, with a picc line and although this conversation is old, felt the need to contribute my theory.  I do taste the saline.  I have tried turning my head away, but realized that when I taste it is NOT when I inhale, but rather when I exhale.  At first, I thought I was simply smelling the saline which is why I turned away. 

Here's my theory- the saline is flushed directly into the veins entering the heart with the rest of your de-oxygenated blood.  The next step according to a blood flow through the body chart I googled is "GUESS WHERE" the lungs.  So, the saline is flushed and then pumped very quickly to the lungs in a blood/saline solution.  Because waste in the body (i.e. alcohol) is often expelled through the lungs, my guess is that the taste your patients are complaining of is simply the "smell" of the saline rushing through their lungs.  So, tell them to hold their breath.. and they won't "taste it" anymore.


Phenomenon solved :)

BJ Emory
I actually have 2 patients
I actually have 2 patients currently, both with ports and both on TPN who complain of a fish taste with one particular brand of saline flush and not with another brand.  As long as send the right brand there are no complaints!

BJ Emory, RN, CRNI

Infusion Education Co

Nancy Rose RN IV Team VA

Nancy Rose RN IV Team VA Medical Center Wilmington, DE (800) 461-8262 ext 4830

sorry for the double send. 

Nancy Rose 

Nancy Rose RN IV Team VA

Nancy Rose RN IV Team VA Medical Center Wilmington, DE (800) 461-8262 ext 4830

I too have had patients tell me they could taste the saline flush. Only after we began using prefilled syringes did a patient report tasting or smelling the flush. Heather's explanation is satisfying. Next time a pt reports the taste/smell, I will suggest holding one's breath. Thanks. 

Nancy Rose 

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