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IV Air Embolism Malpractice | Deltona Medical Negligence Lawyer

Mishandled Intravenous Lines Can Be Deadly

Intravenous (IV) lines can save or kill a patient depending on how they are used. Usually, IV therapy is one of the safest and most effective treatment protocols that doctors have at their disposal. However, in the hands of a careless, tired or overworked doctor or nurse, IV lines can kill.

The most dangerous risk factor inherent in IV use is the possibility of air bubbles entering the bloodstream. The medical term for such an event is air embolism. Air embolisms can occur during IV therapy if a nurse or doctor fails to fill up the entire IV line with fluid before connecting the line to a needle or catheter. Another mistake that can cause an air embolism is the failure to examine the IV line for air while replacing a dry IV bag with a new bag.

In either event, air in the IV line can travel to the heart or brain causing serious damage and even death. If a significant amount of air reaches the heart, it can block blood flow to the lungs in what is called a pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolisms can be deadly.

In addition to causing damage to your lungs, air embolisms pose a serious risk of brain damage because brain tissue requires a constant supply of blood bearing oxygen. While most areas of our body can survive without blood for hours, our brain suffers irreversible damage within minutes if blood supply is stopped.

If hospital staff does not notice air in your IV line, they cannot perform the proper emergency treatment designed to prevent air embolisms from traveling to your brain or lungs. The standard of care in cases of suspected air embolism is to position the patient on his or her left side with the body slightly angled so it is head down, feet up.

This position takes advantage of your anatomy and gravity to trap the air bubbles at a place in your heart so that they can be absorbed by your body and rendered harmless. This treatment is not always successful however in situations involving a particular type of congenital heart disease that allows blood flow between the right and left atrium of your heart.

Nevertheless, proper identification and treatment of possible air embolisms are critical to prevent unnecessary medical injury or death.

For more on medical safety issues, see the library of articles by Daytona Beach medical malpractice attorney.

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