IV Infiltration Can Cause Nerve Damage, Burns, or Amputation
July 6, 2022 | Medical Malpractice
People who receive intravenous catheter (IV) medicine, fluids, electrolytes, antibiotics, nutrition, or blood products rely on their doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to ensure that these life-saving medications are properly inserted and monitored.
However, people may move around in general or in their sleep, causing the catheter to become dislodged or come out of the vein entirely. If that happens, the liquid being infused intravenously can leak into the surrounding tissue. This is called IV infiltration.
IV infiltration from an IV line can happen when a nurse, CNA, or other health care provider is negligent. Perhaps the catheter was inserted in the elbow or wrist, where natural movements and bending caused the catheter to migrate. Or maybe the IV tubing got caught on the bedside rail or even the blanket, pulling the IV out of the vein.
It’s easy for IV needles to come out of a vein, so the nursing attendant’s responsibility is to check the IV site and the position of the IV catheter frequently.
How to Identify IV Infiltration
Experienced medical professionals should be able to identify IV infiltration on sight. However, sometimes hospitals are understaffed, or there may be improperly trained staff members who don’t check the site on a regular basis.
You can learn the symptoms of IV infiltration so that you can let hospital staff know right away.
The symptoms include:
- Pain, swelling, or taut skin near the insertion site
- Wet dressing around the insertion site
- Clammy skin or blanching around the catheter site
Hospital staff is professionally trained to routinely check catheter insertions, including looking for symptoms in your body and on the IV itself, like a slowed or stopped infusion.
What Are the Consequences of IV Infiltration?
Recognizing and correcting an IV infiltration should happen as soon as possible to prevent traumatic tissue damage or even permanent disability. Hospital staff should stop the fluids as soon as they notice an IV infiltration.
The longer the fluids are administered, the more they can seep into the tissue surrounding the vein insertion site. This, in turn, means additional pain and swelling at a minimum.
Some medications that are administered intravenously can be highly irritating to the tissues, which may lead to burns, blisters, or even necrotic tissue death. Extensive necrosis may, in some cases, lead to amputation.
Other complications from IV infiltration can include a rare condition called compartment syndrome, which is muscle, nerve, and tissue damage.
Symptoms of compartment syndrome include:
- Persistent pain and increased swelling
- Tightness in the muscle tissue or taut skin
- Tingling, numbness, or a pins and needles sensation
Compartment syndrome is a serious health concern that may require immediate surgery. It might also delay the initial treatment you needed the IV for, which could lead to additional complications.
IV Infiltration May Mean the Delay of Medication
When a patient has an IV infiltration, this means that they aren’t getting the prescribed medication or fluids. Lack of fluids and medication can result in dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, ineffective treatment of an infection, shock syndrome, irregular heartbeat, or another critical medical condition.
In rare, extreme cases, IV infiltration and its complications can be deadly.
If you or someone you love experienced IV infiltration and complications from the negligence or oversight of a medical professional, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Or, if a loved one died as a result of IV infiltration complications, an experienced personal injury lawyer may file a wrongful death suit on your behalf.
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