Many patients require intravenous (IV) therapy to ensure their bodies are getting enough fluids and the medications they need. In addition to fluids and medications, IV therapy is also used to introduce electrolytes and antibiotics into the patient. IV therapy is often used for surgical patients as well as those with illnesses or injuries.
Generally, IV fluids and drugs are entered through the patient’s hand or arm. In rare cases, the entry point may be a patient’s foot. The nurse or other medical practitioner places a small catheter needle into a vein to introduce the necessary fluids and medications. The medical staff responsible for the care of the patient should regularly monitor the IV to ensure the catheter hasn’t moved and that the fluids and medications are entering the patient’s body.
Most of the time, IV insertion goes the way it should. Sometimes, it takes a try or two to find a vein, which can be painful but not life-threatening. However, severe injuries and complications can result if something goes wrong.
What are IV infiltration and extravasation?
According to RN.com, “IV infiltration is one of the most common problems that can occur when fluid infuses into the tissues surrounding the venipuncture site.” IV infiltration can occur when:
- The tip of the catheter slips out of the vein.
- The catheter passes through the wall of the vein.
- The blood vessel wall allows part of the fluid to infuse into the surrounding tissue.
Extravasation is different. That occurs when “there is accidental infiltration of a vesicant or chemotherapeutic drug into the surrounding IV site.”
Essentially, an IV infiltration or extravasation can cause the fluids, medications, or other substances to leak out of the vein and into the surrounding tissue.
What injuries can IV infiltration and extravasation cause?
Some of the risks of improper IV placement, monitoring, or treatment include:
- Tissue damage or the of tissue (called tissue necrosis)
- Burns or blisters near the IV injection site
- Nerve injuries
- Air embolism
- Compartment syndrome (severe swelling that affects the flow of blood)
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Skin grafts
- Amputation or loss of limb function
- Reflective sympathetic dystrophy (RSD)
- Ruptured veins
Patients may suffer a permanent or long-term disability.
Mistakes in IV placement, monitoring, and treatment may cause death or serious injury. The longer an infiltration or extravasation lasts, the more potential there is for physical harm.
Signs of an IV infiltration or extravasation
Medical mistakes may be due to signs of improper placement or untreated placement include:
- IV infiltration. Swelling, pain, and clammy skin at the point the catheter needle was inserted.
- IV extravasation. Pain, infection, loss of mobility, and tissue damage
Are IV infiltration and extravasation acts of medical malpractice?
Yes, they can be. Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor breaches the standard of care, and the patient sustains an injury and losses as a result. So, if an IV catheter moves and the medical staff does not notice and address it, and the patient suffers harm and damages as a result, then it could be grounds for a medical malpractice claim.
Generally, the health providers responsible for IV placement have a duty to their patients to:
- Place the IV needle in the proper site.
- Use the correct sized catheter needle.
- Follow standard medical procedures before, during, and after the IV needle is inserted.
- Make sure the patient’s blood flow is not constricted.
- Continually monitor the patient for signs of an IV infiltration or extravasation – including checking that the fluids and medications are entering the patient at the proper rate.
- Be close by in case any alarms go off.
- Follow safe facility procedures and protocols.
- Take immediate corrective action if an infiltration or extravasation occurs. A fasciotomy surgery may be required.
What damages can you seek for IV placement malpractice?
Our Memphis medical malpractice lawyers file lawsuits against all liable parties responsible for your injuries or for the death of your loved one. In death cases, we file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the family members.
When patients survive but must live with severe injuries, we demand compensation for the following damages:
- Medical bills and expenses. Medical damages include the cost of any hospitalization, surgeries, physician visits, physical therapy, medical devices, and medications. These damages include all the expenses you have already incurred and the damages you will reasonably incur for the rest of your life.
- Lost wages and loss of earning potential. Patients are entitled to payment for all the income they lose (from the time of the malpractice and for the rest of their life) due to the IV placement malpractice. This sum includes compensation for any income loss if you can return to work – but not at the same income level as before the medical mistakes occurred.
- Pain and suffering. This compensation is the payment for your daily physical pain and emotional suffering including your anxiety, stress, fear, and depression.
- Loss of consortium. This amount is normally for the loss of a normal relationship with your spouse including loss of intimacy.
- Punitive damages. If the medical staff or supervisors acted wantonly or with complete disregard for your safety, you may be entitled to punitive damages.
At Bailey & Greer, PLLC, our Memphis medical malpractice lawyers represent patients and accident victims who suffer any type of medical error – including IV placement, monitoring, and treatment error. We work with medical professionals who understand proper IV placement procedures. To assert your rights to compensation, call us at 901-475-7434 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation at our office in Memphis or Jackson.
Since graduating magna cum laude in 2005 from the University of Memphis School of Law, Thomas has helped make a difference in the lives of victims of serious personal injury, wrongful death, and professional negligence. Thomas has extensive trial experience in both state and federal court. Among other victories in the courtroom, Thomas obtained several impressive jury verdicts and settlements
Read more about Thomas R. Greer