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Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP | Aug 2, 2017

Medical Malpractice Causes Sharp Rise in IV Line Air Embolisms

In recent years, patient fluid management and medication administration, namely those involving intravenous (IV) lines, has become increasingly advanced and intricate. As the technology changes, medical practitioners must also become familiarized with new procedures and tools. Failing to do so can cause catastrophic incidences of medical malpractice.

The incidences of dangerous air embolisms and other adverse events associated with air in IV lines has increased recently. Between 2007 and 2016, the number of deaths and serious injuries attributed to air in IV lines while using a pump or warmer increased by 400%, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) MAUDE database. The number of air-in-line incidences that did not cause serious injury, or could be attributed as “near misses” that almost caused injury, reached more than 1,200 in the last ten years.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has named air embolisms as a “never event,” which means it would never occur without hospital staff negligence. Despite the organization’s confidence that every incident of air embolism and similar complications should be entirely preventable, it was found to be the second-most common adverse health condition suffered due to a patient’s stay in a hospital. The dangers of air infusion are on the rise.

There is also growing concern about micro-bubble infusion, which can be just as damaging but even more difficult to detect. The smallest trace of bubbled air in a patient’s blood stream can cause catastrophic harm to the endothelial glycocalyx over time, ultimately resulting in permanent debilitations and impairment linked to neurological damage. Patients with congenital heart problems – an issue that affects approximately 25% of adult Americans – may be at an escalated risk of endothelial glycocalyx damage caused by miniscule amounts of air that causes brain shunting.

Using Litigation to Seek Compensation

As the CMS has named air embolism as a “never event,” all medical practitioners using such equipment are expected to be entirely aware of the potentiality of the issue and how to stop it. Physicians can use both manual and automatic detection methods to spot a faulty IV line before administering it and harming the patient. Yet, incidents continue to increase in frequency. In order to get hospital groups and clinics to pay attention to the avoidable dangers of air embolisms and misuse of IV lines, litigation and injury claims are often the only options.

Historically, plaintiffs in air embolism cases have been successful in receiving compensation. Of course, as with any personal injury claim, there is no guarantee that compensation will be won, or that the amount won will be enough to cover the entirety of the actual damages. If you or a loved one have been hurt by an air embolism in an IV line administered by a medical practitioner, please contact the malpractice attorneys at Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP. With us handling your claim, you will have over 70 years of total legal experience on your side, working through any possible obstacles from start to finish.

Learn more about our law firm by reviewing our recent case results or contacting our team directly today.