Injuries Caused by IV Mistakes: Tennessee Medical Malpractice Lawyers Explain Signs and Liability

It is commonplace during a hospital visit for a patient to receive an administration of IV fluids or medications. This could be for a seemingly innocuous visit such as dehydration due to illness, or for a serious admission such as before or after a major surgery. Through IVs, healthcare providers can administer a broad range of fluids such as antibiotics, for hydration, steroids, and pain medications.

What are the benefits of IVs?

IVs have become a crucial part of most hospital medical treatment and significantly improve patient care.  This is because manufacturers and medical supply companies have developed many different attachments, extensions, and valves for healthcare providers to use.

Thus, only one puncture in the patient’s skin is required to be made but multiple uses can be garnered from this portal. This lowers the risk of infection during and after the hospital stay by limiting the number of open wounds on a patient’s body and minimizes pain and discomfort the patient may have from receiving multiple injections. Further, this permits hospital staff to inject additional medications or withdraw blood without disturbing a sleeping or critically ill patient.

What are the risks of IVs?

However, IV injection sites are not without risks and there is a potential for Memphis medical malpractice. Despite the small size of an IV, serious injuries and even death can occur if negligently placed or maintained in a patient’s arm.

Such injuries like tissue necrosis (damaged and dying tissue), air bubbles, and infection can cause disfigurement, amputation, and even death. This is particularly true when the IV becomes dislodged from the vein, causing fluids to be pumped into the patient’s surrounding tissue. As seemingly harmless as a dislodged IV may sound, where a patient is receiving strong antibiotics, chemotherapy, steroids, or painkillers, serious injury to the surrounding tissue, veins, arteries, and nerves can occur in a short period of time.

If the patient is under sedation in a long surgical operation or in the recovery room and the medical staff does not recognize this medical mistake, the damage may occur for an extended period of time before the patient awakens and finds the problem.

What are the signs an IV placement is causing harm?

Signs that an IV has been negligently placed or maintained in a patient’s body include the following:

  • Changes in skin color or temperature
  • Swelling at the IV site
  • Bruising
  • Stretched, taut, bulging, or otherwise abnormal skin appearance
  • The IV infusion has stopped or significantly slowed
  • Fluid or blood is leaking from the IV site
  • Pain is present and increasing
  • The bandages, dressing, tape, or other fixation at the IV site is damp or wet

What types of IV placement and monitoring indicate medical malpractice?

While not all mistakes in IV insertion or maintenance constitute instances of Tennessee medical malpractice, there are some common occurrences that could indicate possible liability due to reckless, careless, or otherwise negligent conduct by a healthcare provider. Some of the most common causes of IV injury include the following:

  • Improper insertion of the catheter such as at a wrong angle or position
  • Multiple failed attempts to insert the IV causing “pinprick” damage to the surrounding tissue and vein, thus making it fail
  • Use of an oversized catheter
  • Negligent application of the fixation tape or dressing causing the IV to slip out
  • Failing to adequately monitor the IV flow rate causing too high a flow rate and thus too high a pressure for the catheter to remain in the vein
  • Friction, pressure, contact, pulling, or pushing of the IV, IV line, catheter, or similar IV attachment thus pulling the catheter from the vein
  • Negligently choosing an inappropriate, weakened, ruptured, or vein with otherwise compromised integrity to support the catheter

What are the possible complications when IVs are not administered or monitored properly?

According to Student Nurse Life, more than nine in 10 hospital patients receive some type of IV therapy. About two in 10 patients have some type of IV complications. Some of the many IV complications due to inadequate medical care include:

  • This condition is an inflammation of the vein “which is caused whenever the used cannula is too large for the chosen vein, or when the cannula is not secured in place.” Using the smallest cannula possible depending on the patient and the fluid being administered will reduce the chance of phlebitis occurring during IV therapy administration. The cannula is the tube that is inserted into the vein. Some of the signs of phlebitis include warmth to the touch at the site of the injection, redness, and tenderness.
  • Air embolism. This condition happens when “one or multiple air bubbles enter the bloodstream through a vein or artery and blocks it. Immediate care is required because an air embolism can cause death.” Signs and symptoms include blue skin tone, dizziness, anxiety, nausea, muscle and joint pain, headaches, hypotension, a persistent cough, respiratory failure, shock, confusion, seizures, loss of consciousness, and other problems.
  • Infection at the IV site. Medical staff should use veins that are not small or fragile, not in areas that need to be flexed, and not in other risky areas. “Adherence to IV therapy safety procedures, maintaining a clean, dry dressing, and frequent monitoring can help lessen the chance of infection.” Common signs of an infection include swelling, redness, a burning sensation, a raised temperature, and discharge.
  • Venous flare reaction. This is generally a local allergic response. Medical staff needs to take the patient’s allergy history before administering an IV. “Administration should ideally happen slowly through an infusion pump.” Symptoms include redness along the vein or the cannula site, itchiness, swelling, tenderness, hypotension, and anaphylaxis.

Other vein-related complications due to improper IV care include:

  • This condition is “the unintentional leakage of vesicant fluids or medications into the vein’s surrounding tissue. It can be prevented by ensuring proper drug dilution as per recommended guidelines prior to IV administration.”
  • Infiltration is the accumulation of fluid in the IV surrounding tissue caused by the needle puncturing the vein wall or by eventual needle misplacement.
  • “This is an inflammation that causes the formation of a blood clot, which blocks one or more veins, usually in the legs.”
  • “A leakage of blood from the blood vessel into the surrounding soft tissue.” A hematoma occurs “when an IV catheter passes through multiple walls of a vessel, or when not enough pressure is applied to an IV site after catheter removal.”
  • Other complications include electrolyte imbalance, acute hypervolemia, anaphylaxis, speed shock, Catheter-Related Bloodstream Infection (CRBSI), and adverse drug reactions.

Can I file a medical malpractice claim against a hospital for an IV injury?

Yes, depending on how it happened. Hospitals, doctors, nurses, and medical staff owe a duty of competent care to their patients. Given that more than 90 percent of patients in hospitals receive IV care, the hospital and healthcare providers should expect that complications will arise and take steps to prevent those complications from occurring and respond to complications promptly when they do occur. It’s not an excuse that a patient has poor veins – many patients do. Hospital staff should professionally administer the IV and monitor each patient’s responses.

If you or a loved one believes you may have suffered an IV injury due to a negligent healthcare provider, please contact one of our experienced Tennessee medical malpractice attorneys immediately. The statute of limitations from the date of the act or omission is only one year and your right to file a claim will be barred after that date.

Here at Bailey & Greer, PLLC, our Tennessee medical malpractice attorneys understand how to effectively pursue your claims. Our legal team has a proven track record of compassionately representing our clients injured in Tennessee personal injury cases which is included in our testimonials page and our successful case results page.

Please contact us today to receive your free case evaluation by calling us or filling out or contact form. We have offices in Memphis and Jackson, Tennessee and Little Rock, Arkansas.

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