Central IV and PICC lines allow medical professionals long-term access to patients’ veins, and they offer patients some remarkable benefits. When administered correctly, they are valuable because they carry a low risk of infection and reduce the number of puncture wounds for blood tests and other injectables. Additionally, IV and PICC lines provide extended venous access and a method for administering medications that may otherwise irritate smaller blood vessels. However, central IV and PICC lines can cause serious injuries when they are not properly inserted, maintained, and removed.
An intravenous line, or IV, is a flexible, soft, plastic tube that is inserted into a vein, through which a medical provider can give a patient fluids or medications. An IV is typically placed in the arm or hand and is used for short periods, usually less than three or four days. A central IV line, or central venous catheter, is essentially the same. However, it is a much longer line that goes all the way to a vein near or just inside the heart. Patients can receive fluids, medication, nutrition, or blood through a central line, and it can also be used for drawing a patient’s blood. Central venous catheters are designed to stay in place for weeks or even several months.
A PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter) is like a central line, in that it is a long, flexible, plastic tube that is inserted into a patient’s vein and navigated up into a large vein near the heart where it delivers fluids, medications, blood, or nutrition. A PICC line is thicker and therefore more durable than an IV line. It is also longer, going farther into the vein. It can stay in place much longer, sometimes up to 18 months, for patients to complete courses of chemotherapy medications without having to have numerous needle sticks throughout the process.
Medical treatments using intravenous catheters have become very common because they make administering medications and other fluids fairly quick and easy. While many patients go through situations where they have to be stuck multiple times before a medical professional finds a vein, that doesn’t constitute negligence or medical malpractice.
However, significant injuries can result when an IV isn’t inserted properly or is left unmonitored. The injuries resulting from IV errors range in severity, from mild to life-threatening. IV infiltration is a condition in which the medications or fluids being administered with an IV leak out of the vein and into nearby soft tissue. It is called IV extravasation when the leak involves a vesicant medication (one that causes blistering or tissue damage). This can lead to necrosis, permanent loss of function, and even amputation when left untreated.
Some of the injuries commonly caused by IV errors include:
PICC Line Errors
Typically, a PICC line starts in a vein in the arm, just above the elbow. Then, it is threaded through the vein to the center of the chest and into the superior vena cava, the vein that transports blood to the heart from the head, neck, chest, and arms. Alternatively, a PICC line can be placed in the jugular vein, a procedure that is becoming more and more common.
Placing the PICC line in the correct vessel is extremely important, especially when placed in the jugular vein. Other significant structures near the jugular vein include the carotid artery. If a PICC line is unintentionally placed in the carotid artery instead of the jugular vein and medications or fluids are administered, they will be routed to the patient’s brain, and the results will be severe and often fatal.
Other types of PICC line errors include:
IV and PICC line errors can lead to severe injuries, amputations, and even death, especially with cases of IV extravasation that involve vesicant drugs. As a result, medical professionals must place and administer IV catheters properly and monitor patients to identify and treat any complications quickly. The longer IV infiltration or extravasation goes undetected, the higher the potential of severe injuries.
Unfortunately, some nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals fail to adhere to the acceptable standard of care when inserting IVs and PICC lines or assessing patients and their IV sites. In those cases, the individual and the hospital or medical facility may be held liable for a patient’s injuries. In addition, negligent medical professionals can be found legally responsible for injuries resulting from improper insertion, failing to monitor for swelling or other signs of complications, or failing to take immediate action once a mistake is discovered.
Unfortunately, some nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals fail to adhere to the acceptable standard of care when inserting IVs and PICC lines or when assessing patients and their IV sites. In those cases, the individual and the hospital or medical facility may be held liable for a patient’s injuries. In addition, negligent medical professionals can be found legally responsible for injuries resulting from improper insertion, failing to monitor for swelling or other signs of complications, or failing to take immediate action once a mistake is discovered.
Ross Feller Casey is a nationally recognized law firm dedicated to helping victims of medical malpractice, including IV and PICC line mistakes, seek justice and financial compensation for their injuries. Our legal team has won over $3 billion for clients, including hundreds of multimillion-dollar recoveries.
If you or your loved one has suffered IV or PICC line injuries due to medical negligence or malpractice, you may be able to file a claim against the responsible parties. We have medical doctors on staff to review your records and determine whether medical negligence or malpractice occurred.
Contact the office of Ross Feller Casey to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your rights and options. We handle IV and PICC line lawsuits on a contingency basis. You won’t pay a cent until we receive financial compensation for you and your family.
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