Posted: June 3, 2019

An IV or intravenous catheter is inserted into a vein to administer fluids, electrolytes, medications, blood products, antibiotics, lipids, or nutrition directly into the bloodstream. If the catheter becomes dislodged or moves out of the vein, the fluid that was being infused through it could now leak into surrounding tissue. When that occurs, it is called an IV infiltration.

An IV line can cause an infiltration without a nurse or doctor being negligent. The catheter might have been inserted in the wrist or elbow area where the natural bending or movement of the limb could cause the catheter to move or migrate. Sometimes, IV tubing can get caught on a blanket or bed side-rail and cause the IV to fall out of the vein. However, because it is easy for an IV to move out of a vein, it is the responsibility of a nurse to frequently check the IV site to make sure the catheter is still in the correct place.

Identifying IV Infiltration

An experienced medical practitioner should be able to identify IV infiltration by sight. However, if you notice any of the symptoms of infiltration, it is important that you notify hospital staff immediately.

Symptoms that should be brought to the attention of a nurse or doctor include:

  • Swelling, skin tautness, and/or pain around the insertion site
  • Wet dressing around the IV needle
  • Blanching, cold, and clammy skin around the IV site

Nurses and hospital staff know to routinely check IVs for signs of infiltration. This may include any of the symptoms above in addition to clear indications of a problem such as a slowed or stopped infusion.

If an IV infiltrates, it should be recognized as soon as possible to prevent traumatic or permanent injuries to an arm, leg, hand or scalp. Once an IV infiltration is discovered, the fluids that are infusing must be stopped immediately. If the fluids are not discontinued, they can continue to seep into the tissue surrounding the vein, leading to additional swelling and pain in the area. What’s more, some medications or fluids can be very irritating to the tissues, and infiltration can lead to blisters, burns, necrotic, or dead, tissue or even amputation.

If too much fluid is allowed to leak into an area, in rare cases, it can lead to compartment syndrome with nerve, tissue or muscle damage. Symptoms of compartment syndrome may include persistent pain or a tingling, pins-and-needles sensation. Compartment syndrome may also cause increased swelling and tightness in the area, further increasing risks for dangerous medical complications.

Compartment syndrome is a serious medical issue that may demand immediate surgical intervention. It may also require a delay of in your original treatment, resulting in additional injury.

No Longer Receiving Medications

When an IV infiltrates, it means that the patient is not receiving any of the prescribed medication or fluids. That can lead to additional complications or ineffective treatment of an infection, electrolyte imbalance, shock, irregular heartbeat or other critical condition. In extreme cases, IV infiltration may even result in death.

If you have been injured or a loved one has died following untreated IV infiltration, you may have legal options that can help you recover damages for medical expenses and personal pain and suffering. The medical malpractice lawyers at Kline & Specter, PC can review your case to help you determine if you have cause to file suit.

Please call 800-243-1100 to schedule your free case evaluation. Our firm has more than 40 lawyers, including five who are also medical doctors – the most of any firm in the nation. We serve clients living throughout the country. We maintain offices in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware. For cases outside those states, Kline & Specter works with local attorneys in each state as applicable.