Written by attorney Mitchell Scott Sexner

Medical malpractice IV errors

The intravenous (or IV) delivery of medications or drugs is an indispensable medical advance that helps doctors and nurses provide the very best care to patients both during surgery and during treatment. Further recent advances in flexible IV catheters have made the procedure much easier on the patient and insertion much easier for the medical professional. Yet IV usage is not with dangers and complications as doctors, along with their medical staff, must remain extremely vigilant for problems that may arise.

One all too common complication is called IV infiltration and it occurs when the infused fluid or medication leaks outside the vein and infiltrates the tissues surrounding the IV site. When IV infiltration occurs, the most severe type involves leakage of medications that are highly caustic known as vesicants. When vesicants infiltrate the surrounding tissues, a process known as IV Extravasation may result in burns as well as tissue necrosis. Other potential IV injuries include pain, disfigurement, nerve damage, loss of limb function, or an air embolism which may result in death. Infiltration is generally caused by a mistake on the part of the medical technician and if so, will likely be considered medical malpractice. It can be caused by a number of issues including:

  • Infusion pump malfunction
  • Damage occurring to vein wall which allows swelling or rupture Formation of blood clots causing a buildup of pressure
  • Failing to properly monitor the flow rate
  • Aggressive IV flushing
  • Failing to secure IV properly
  • IV catheter backing out of vein
  • Puncture of vein wall
  • Repeated failed attempt to insert catheter
  • Wrong sized catheter used
  • Damaged or defective catheter used

Regardless of the reason that an IV mistake occurs, prompt discovery of the problem is of the utmost importance to prevent permanent injury to the limb. When a doctor, nurse or other medical technician fails to properly monitor the patient or to promptly respond to the patient’s complaints, infiltration may go undiagnosed and the condition will undoubtedly worsen.

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