© 2009 The Medical-Legal News
• The Gist: Basics, basics! The introduction of air into any IV line is presumptively damaging evidence suggesting a breach of basic nursing skills. Massive brain damage can result. Such damage is foreseeable and caused by simple nursing error.
The February 2009 issue of the Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter (nursinglaw.com) reported two nursing malpractice cases with uncommon parallels — both involved the flushing of IV or catheter lines with behavior below the standard of care.
In a Wisconsin case, a hospital nurse introduced air into an IV line while clearing it after a premature newborn had received a transfusion. The jury awarded $35.1 million on the belief that air traveled to the child’s brain and caused damage.
In another case, a home health nurse tried to flush a compromised Groshong heart catheter (used to deliver antibiotics) after the nurse had inadvertently cut the tubing during a previous visit.
The nurse admitted she should have done nothing, except call an ambulance, but in fact she taped over the cut in the catheter, tugged and pulled on it and dislodged it. The patient drove himself to the hospital, but soon died.
The appeals court said, “The emergency room doctors and treating physicians testified that the catheter was dislodged and ultimately found under the right clavicle instead of in the right atrium of the heart, that a crack was in the catheter and an attempt had been made to tape over the crack, that there were clot formations along the catheter tubing and that upon aspiration the catheter returned air.”
The trial court had said that the nurse’s actions of trying to clear the catheter resulted in air being flushed into the plaintiff’s venous system. The case was Mary Breckinridge Healthcare v. Eldridge, 2008 WL 5428213 (Ky.App.).
Full articles can be found atwww.nursinglaw.com.
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