Arterial puncture

An arterial puncture is when a needle is inserted into an artery rather than a vein.

This rarely happens and our nurses are trained to deal with this complication. However, it is important that if there are any changes in your symptoms you follow the advice below.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • bleeding has restarted
  • swelling that is large or increasing in size
  • numbness or pins and needles in the arm, hand or fingers
  • severe or worsening pain
  • coldness or paleness of the lower arm, or hand of the affected arm

Follow these steps:

  1. Raise your arm and apply firm pressure
  2. Go immediately to the Accident and Emergency department at your nearest hospital, ask someone to take you or dial 999 and take this information with you
  3. Show the A&E doctor the letter you'll have been given at your donation session - it will look like this arterial puncture leaflet (PDF 228KB)
  4. Continue to raise your arm and apply firm pressure over the site of needle entry on your way to hospital

You must not use this arm to donate blood in the future.


It is likely that a bruise will appear after an arterial puncture. The bruise may look dramatic and some people can find this worrying, especially if it appears away from the donation area.

Bruises will disappear with time, but this may take several weeks. It is normal for bruises to spread out before fading. If you do experience a bruise the following advice may help during the first 36 hours after the bruise appeared.

Treat your bruise with RICE

Rest - allow time for the bruise to heal. Protect the bruise by avoiding heavy lifting, for example at the gym or carrying heavy shopping. Only light, gentle movement is recommended. After 36 hours return to normal activity.

Ice - do not place directly on the skin but under a cloth.

Compression - pressing on the point where the needle was inserted when a bruise has appeared may reduce the size of the bruise which is forming.

Elevation - if possible, raise your arm above the level of your heart when at rest.

If you require pain relief take paracetamol (according to manufacturer’s instructions) but avoid aspirin and ibuprofen for the first 24 hours.

After 36 hours contrast bathing may help reduce any swelling. This requires putting a cold cloth on the affected area for 10 minutes followed by a warm cloth for 10 minutes and repeating this several times, ending with a cold cloth.

Further information

If you are worried or require further information you can obtain advice by ringing our donor helpline on 0300 123 23 23.