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Doctors, nurses, warned about dangers of overused IV device

You may have never had an IV line stuck into you, but if you've ever watched a TV network medical show you probably are familiar with the device. It's the needle and tube that is often used in a hospital or clinical setting in order to gain access to a patient's blood system.

In some cases, the IV system is even left in place for several weeks. By using it, caregivers are more easily able to administer medications or necessary liquid nutrition. It also makes it easier for them to draw blood if they have to. From the doctor or nurse's perspective the use of IVs just make sense. Patients don't have to be poked as often. IVs also make life a whole lot more convenient for them as providers. But recently the Society of General Internal Medicine issued a warning suggesting that doctors need to be more judicious about IV usage.

Of specific concern are peripherally inserted central catheters or PICC devices. The group says doctors should stop thinking about the convenience factor and think more about the patient risk factor going forward.

What are the risks? A University of Michigan study says the big one is that they can raise the chance that a patient will develop blood clots at the site of the injection. If a clot breaks loose it may work its way through the bloodstream and cause any number of issues such as a stroke or a deadly pulmonary embolism.

The researchers reviewed the records of more than U-M 900 hospital patients who had received PICCs in 2012 and 2013. Of those patients, nearly 270 developed PICC-associated blood clots. But the study also revealed that risks of clotting were lower when narrower gauge lines were used and among patients who were on aspirin or cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. Patients who underwent surgery or had existing medical histories of previous clotting issues were at higher risk.

The upshot of the review is that doctors are now being told to only use PICCs when they are really needed and to check more often to be sure problems aren't developing.

Medical malpractice claims tend to stem from instances of negligence in which standards of care are ignored. This story is yet one more example of why it's important for doctors and nurses to keep abreast of changes in standards.

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