Complications of IV Therapy – Infiltration/Extravasation

by Bonner Law | Aug 03, 2021 | Legal Questions/Issues Medical Issues/Negligence

What is intravenous therapy, also known as IV?

It is a delivery method used to administer fluids like electrolytes and medications through a small catheter needle that is inserted into a vein, usually, in the hand or arm to deliver whichever fluid necessary.

This form of therapy is widely used as it is convenient, however, it is not always reliable or safe, and serious complications can arise.

Complications may develop when the catheter is improperly inserted or placed, or when medical staff does not adequately monitor the area. Complications, such as IV infiltration and extravasation can occur as well.

IV Infiltration is when the medication or fluid is intravenously placed but it leaks out of the vein and into the surrounding soft tissue.

IV Extravasation is when medications known as vesicants, which can cause more damage to tissue than other medications, leak into the surrounding tissue. Some of these include:

  • Aminophylline
  • Chlorothiazide (Diuril®)
  • Dobutamine (Dobutrex®)
  • Epinephrine
  • Mitomycin C (Mutamycin®)
  • Nitroglycerin
  • Norepinephrine (Levophed®)
  • Phenylephrine
  • Promethazine (Phenergan®)
  • Tromethamine (THAM®)
  • Vinblastine (Velban®)

Sometimes, the medication injected intravenously becomes extremely toxic if the drug is inadvertently delivered outside the bloodstream, causing serious problems to surrounding tissue and skin.

Other serious complications of IV infiltration/extravasation include:

  • Severe scarring where the medication makes contact with the skin
  • Permanent nerve damage
  • Severe burns, where healing may require skin grafting
  • Skin ulceration or blistering
  • Amputation of the affected area
  • Impaired or diminished use of an affected extremity

Every patient has an expectation from their doctors, from their nurses, and their medical facilities to provide the highest level of care during every procedure.

When a substandard level of care causes serious injuries, the medical staff and facility can be held legally accountable for their neglect.

Standard of Medical Care to Avoid Complications for IVs

Health care providers must take steps to protect the patient from injuries related to IV infiltration complications.

To minimize the risk of complications, the medical staff is required to monitor the patient continuously to detect or identify any signs of IV infiltration/extravasation.

IV therapy accidents are usually caused by negligence or medical malpractice that could produce devastating, lifelong consequences. Some of these serious medical complications include:

  • Tissue Necrosis
  • Compartment Syndrome
  • Air Embolism
  • Overloading fluids
  • Loss of limb function at the affected site
  • Nerve damage
  • Permanent or long-lasting neurological disorder
  • Necrotic tissue-associated amputation
  • Spinal cord injury including quadriplegia or paraplegia
  • Serious punctures causing vein ruptures or permanent damage to veins and arteries
  • IV therapy delivering the wrong medication or overmedication
  • Serious infection

In addition to proving substandard care, the Plaintiffs in malpractice cases will also need to prove that had the medical provider used acceptable care, everything would have likely resulted in a better outcome.

Additionally, victims will need to prove their damages, which can include a range of economic and non-economic arising from their injuries. Some examples include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost income and lost future wages
  • Permanent disfigurement or disability
  • Loss of enjoyment or quality of life

Filing a Claim or Lawsuit after Complication Related to an IV

If you or a family member have suffered from IV infiltration or extravasation, you may be entitled to compensation related to your damages. Contact Bonner Law at 1-800-4MEDMAL for a free consultation. Mr. Bonner is an attorney with over 30 years of experience in medical malpractice litigation. We have over 30 years of experience representing patients and healthcare providers in medical malpractice litigation.