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Medical Malpractice Issues: IV Infiltration and Extravasation

Intravenous, or IV, therapy is used to administer antibiotics, medications, electrolytes and other fluids into the bloodstream. The procedure is straight-forward and relatively simple. The nurse or technician places a needle in the patient’s vein. A plastic catheter slides into place over the needle before removing it. A tube is connected to the catheter to deliver the fluid. 

Intravenous (IV) Infiltration occurs when the catheter goes through the vein or slips out of the vein so that the fluid leaks into the surrounding tissue. The result may be swelling, redness, burning, blisters, sores, and pain. In some cases, medications could cause tissue and skin to die, which is known as necrosis. Serious burns can result from medication that is corrosive. Serious injuries such as strokes or even death can occur.

An IV that leaks a vesicant drug – a solution or medication capable of causing tissue damage when it enters tissues surrounding the vein – is referred to as an Intravenous Extravasation. Many chemotherapy drugs are considered vesicant drugs. Specific vesicant drugs include Actinomycin D, Dactinomycin, Daunorubicin, Doxorubicin, Eprirubicin, Idarubicin, Mitomycin C, Vinblastine, Vindesine, Vincristine, and Vinorelbine. Complications from IV extravasation can be severe, life-threatening, and result in amputation, necrosis and/or permanent loss of function. 

Was Medical Malpractice Involved? 

Although IVs are widely used to treat illness and acute injuries, they are not without risk and serious complications. These risks arise when IVs are not properly placed, or when the medical professionals fail to adequately monitor patients. 

Was the injury resulting from the IV procedure medical malpractice? First, it’s important to note that medical professionals are not liable for all harms experienced by a patient. Having needles inserted numerous times to find a vein does not necessarily constitute negligence. Similarly, dissatisfaction with the results of a medical procedure is not grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, medical professionals are legally responsible if the patient experiences harm or injury because the health provider deviated from the quality of care that is normally expected in similar situations. In the case of IV infiltration or extravasation, this deviation could be related to medication dosage, health management, treatment, or aftercare.

Legal Elements of a Medical Malpractice Case and Damage Awards

The injured plaintiff must show that the physician or medical professional acted in a negligent manner in rendering care and prove the following legal elements:

  • The doctor or medical professional had a duty to the patient;
  • The doctor or medical professional breached that duty;
  • The breach of duty was responsible for the injury, and
  • The injury caused compensable damages.

A plaintiff who can prove these elements is entitled to compensation. Compensable damages are both economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses include medical expenses including the costs of medical care, medication and rehabilitation. Economic losses may also include loss of income or a reduction in earning power. 

The second type of compensation includes non-economic losses like pain and suffering. Some patients with IV infiltration injuries require extensive psychological care for trauma. Pain and suffering can be somewhat more challenging to prove, but it typically involves disruption to your life, debilitating physical impairments and physical disfigurements.

It is difficult to calculate an average settlement value or verdict range for damages related to IV infiltration and extravasation. However, an experienced Haliczer Pettis & Schwamm Orlando medical malpractice lawyer or Ft. Lauderdale medical malpractice attorney that has handled IV injury lawsuits can help estimate the value of your claim.  

Of course, every case is fact-specific and the damage awards vary depending upon the extent of the plaintiff’s injury and the level of negligence of the medical professional.

Seek Legal Counsel from a Skilled Orlando Medical Malpractice Lawyer

According to the Medical Malpractice Center, each year in the United States there are nearly 20,000 medical malpractice suits against doctors and medical professionals. If you or a loved one has been injured due to medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation, including economic and non-economic damages. Contact our office today to speak with an Orlando medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your legal options.