IV INFILTRATION AND RELATED COMPLICATIONS

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Houston Medical Malpractice Lawyers for IV Infiltration

iv infiltration

Patients receive fluids or medication through an intravenous (IV) catheter placed in an arm or leg vein. However, IV access is not without risks or complications. Air embolism, extravascular drug administration, hematoma, intra-arterial injection, and IV infiltration are just a few of the complications associated with IV therapy.

Should these complications arise, serious health issues such as dangerous infections, loss of limb function, nerve damage, permanent neurological disorders, spinal cord injuries, tissue necrosis, and even amputation may occur.

Many of our clients rely on the Houston medical malpractice lawyers at Reich & Binstock during the most challenging moments of their lives. With decades of experience in Texas medical malpractice law, our legal team prides itself on achieving successful results for clients who need financial compensation to pay for medical treatment for their injuries. To schedule a free consultation with us, please call our Houston law office at 713-622-7271 today.

What Is Infiltration for IV?

As previously stated, IV therapy comes with risks, and a common complication is IV infiltration. According to an article published in the Journal of Infusion Nursing, peripheral IV catheter insertion is the most common invasive hospital procedure. The procedure has an overall failure rate ranging between 35 to 50%. Infiltration and extravasation cause more than 20% of the failures.

Infiltration occurs when nonvesicant drugs leak from the vein into nearby tissue. Nonvesicant solutions are medications and IV solutions that don’t reduce the blood supply to organs or other parts of the body (ischemia) or the death of organ cells or tissue (necrosis). Leakage may occur with dextrose solutions, antibiotics, or standard saline solution.

Untreated IV infiltration can cause swelling, pain, compartment syndrome, or in severe cases, amputation.

Extravasation occurs when a vesicant leaks from an infiltration. Vesicant drugs can cause blisters on tissue and severe tissue damage. Extravasation injuries can lead to the loss of extremity function. Tissue death or necrosis occurs in acute cases.

What Causes IV Infiltration?

infiltration iv

Several issues cause IV infiltration and extravasation. Regular daily living activities, such as a patient moving or tugging on the IV line, may cause a catheter to dislodge. The catheter may leave the vascular pathway when it moves out of the insertion point or punctures the other side of the vein. Both of these issues can cause leakages. Leakages also occur when vein porosity increases.

Peripheral IV catheter failure occurs when the needle pierces through the opposite side of the vein wall. Needle punctures can happen during catheter insertion. Forces on the vein wall caused by patient movement or a dislodged IV often cause punctures.

Venous return is the amount of blood that flows from the organs, through the veins, and back to the heart each minute. Blood return may increase in young children, pregnant women, the elderly, or patients with kidney issues.

When the vein becomes inflamed, the spaces between the vein wall cells widen, allowing fluid leaks from the IV. Vein inflammation is called phlebitis. Phlebitis IV occurs when the cannula or catheter is too large for the vein or improperly secured. Infiltration prevention includes using the smallest needle possible for the patient and the fluids administered.

Phlebitis vs Infiltration

Telling the difference between infiltration and phlebitis can be difficult because the two share the same symptoms and signs. Administering the wrong treatment can make the situation worse. As mentioned above, phlebitis is vein inflammation, and it is the most common complication of IV therapy.

There are three types of phlebitis:

  • Bacterial Phlebitis – A bacterial infection causes vein inflammation.
  • Chemical Phlebitis – The fluids or medications being administered cause vein inflammation.
  • Mechanical Phlebitis – The IV catheter or cannula cause vein inflammation.

Infiltration occurs when the cannula dislodges from or perforates the vein, and fluids leak from the IV line into the surrounding tissues. Infiltration becomes hazardous if large amounts of fluid saturate the tissue, causing compartment syndrome or nerve compression.

What are the Symptoms and Signs of IV Infiltration?

Your medical care team should recognize IV infiltration when they see it. However, it’s vital that you also know the symptoms and signs of infiltration so you may let your health practitioner know right away.

Let your caregiver know if you notice these common signs of infiltration IV:

  • Pain, swelling, or skin tightness around your IV site
  • Area around the IV site is cold, clammy, or blanched (appears scalded)
  • Dressing around the insertion site is wet

Hospital staff and nurses regularly check IVs for infiltration signs. They observe whether any of the above signs are present and determine whether an infusion slowed or stopped.

An infiltrated IV must be recognized and treated quickly, so the surrounding tissues do not suffer serious complications or permanent injuries. Medical professionals must immediately stop infusing fluids when they discover an infiltration. If left unchecked, leaking fluids may cause severe damage or eventual death.

What Happens When an IV Gets Infiltrated?

phlebitis iv

And as previously discussed, certain vesicant medications badly damage the tissue surrounding the IV insertion site.

An air embolism happens when there is air in an IV line. If not caught quickly, an air embolism can cause death when an air bubble enters a vein. The air can travel through the veins into vital organs such as the heart, lungs, and brain.

Patients may suffer burns, blisters, and necrotic or dead tissue. Severe damage may even require amputation of the affected limb.

In rare cases, fluid leaking into the area causes compartment syndrome and muscle, tissue, or nerve damage. Symptoms include tingling or a pins-and-needles sensation or constant pain. The risks for medical complications increase as the affected area swells, and the skin tightens. A patient experiencing compartment syndrome needs immediate surgical intervention. Compartment syndrome may cause a delay in treatment for the patient’s original condition.

An IV infiltration may damage the nerves in the arm, hand, or scalp. Numbness, tingling, or loss of function may occur. Nerve damage may also occur during the insertion of the catheter tip into the venipuncture site. The damage may cause a permanent loss of feeling or function.

When a patient receives the wrong medication or the wrong dose or concentration of a medication, it can be fatal. Clinical complications such as heart failure are possible.

How Serious is IV Infiltration?

Excessive fluid may pool in one or more arm compartments if an IV infiltration is left untreated. Damage to arteries, nerves, and muscles may occur. IV infiltration frequently requires surgery to avoid a permanent loss of function or amputation.

Standard of Medical Care to Keep an IV Site Safe

Medical professionals must continuously monitor patient IVs for signs of an IV infiltration to reduce the risks of complications and serious injuries. Additional measures to protect patients from IV infiltration include:

  • Not placing catheter needles in joint sites.
  • Using the appropriately sized catheter.
  • Following proper procedures during each step of the IV insertion.

Medical staff must also ensure the catheter is not too tight, or it will restrict blood flow.

IV Infiltration Lawsuit Attorneys in Houston, Texas

phlebitis vs infiltration

When excessive fluid leaks from an infiltrating IV, the patient does not receive their prescribed therapy. When a patient doesn’t receive the proper medication or fluids, the treatment may be ineffective, or their condition may worsen. In extreme cases, patients may die.

If you have suffered from IV infiltration or a loved one experienced wrongful death from an IV infiltration, you may have legal options. A Houston medical malpractice attorney at Reich & Binstock can review the details of your case and determine whether you may have a successful lawsuit. Our legal team devises a solid legal strategy and helps you fight to recover damages for your pain and suffering and medical expenses.

We provide a free initial consultation to our clients. Our respected personal injury attorneys have more than 30 years of experience with medical malpractice cases. Call our law offices at (713) 622-7271 for a free case evaluation about your intravenous therapy injury. We provide compassionate and understanding legal counsel and support to each of our valued clients.

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