Nurses insert an intravenous (IV) line in a patient’s vein to administer medications or fluids.
This usually involves placing a small catheter needle into a vein in the patient’s hand or arm. Sometimes, though, the IV is inserted in the patient’s foot.
Two of the most common problems with IV line placement are infiltration and extravasation.
IV infiltration and extravasation
IV infiltration happens when a non-vesicant medication or fluid flows into the surrounding tissues instead of the vein. “Non-vesicant” means that the medication or fluid doesn’t irritate the tissue. Thus, a "vesicant" is a substance that will irritate tissue.
IV extravasation is the same as infiltration, except the medication or fluid does irritate the tissue.
Infiltration or extravasation can occur upon initial placement of the IV catheter, or can develop later when the catheter slips out of place.
Monitoring an IV
When a nurse starts an IV, the standard of care requires monitoring and reassessing the IV site. When IV infiltration or extravasation occurs, the site may look red or swollen and may be painful.
If the nursing staff isn’t properly monitoring and reassessing an IV site, infiltration or extravasation may go hours without being discovered. Depending on what’s been infused through the IV and the length of time that infiltration or extravasation occurred, the harms and injuries can include burns, discolored skin, numbness, poor blood circulation, and even tissue death.
One of our clients—let’s call her Sally—went to a hospital in Houston’s Texas Medical Center for a chemotherapy treatment. A registered nurse started a chemotherapy IV line, which apparently quickly extravasated. Unfortunately, the nurse wasn’t timely and properly monitoring the IV insertion site, and the extravasation of chemotherapy medication caused permanent damage to her surrounding tissues, including burns and tissue death.
In Indiana jury recently awarded $11 million to a patient who had his leg amputated because of complications from IV infiltration. The patient went to the hospital because he was experiencing nausea and vomiting. He was admitted to the floor, where a nurse placed an IV in his foot.
Shortly after the IV was placed, the patient complained to the medical staff about severe pain at the IV site. No one worked up the pain, though, and he was discharged a few days later on crutches. Within a few days, he sought treatment at another hospital, where physicians determined that his foot was actually dead and it needed to be amputated.
If you have been seriously injured because of IV infiltration or extravasation in Texas, then contact a top-rated, experienced Texas medical malpractice attorney for a free strategy session about your potential case.