What Happens If the IV Is Not in the Vein?


This year, nearly 200 million US patients received peripheral intravenous (IV) catheters. 1 in 10 of them resulted in IV failure, either as IV infiltration or extravasation. IV infiltration is when the fluid from an IV leaks out of the vein into surrounding tissue, while IV extravasation refers to when leaking IV fluid causes blisters or tissue damage.

Left untreated, IV infiltration causes pain and tenderness at the IV site. In severe cases, infiltrated IV can necessitate emergency amputation.

IV infiltration can occur in a number of ways:

  • If the catheter punctures all the way through the vein
  • If the catheter dislodges from the vein
  • If the vein is unusually porous
  • If blood flow pushes the IV fluid out through the insertion site

The chief danger of infiltrated IV fluid is increased pressure on compartments within the limbs. Heightened pressure in these spaces put dangerous pressure on muscles, blood vessels, and nerves, which can eventually cause irreversible harm. This condition is known as compartment syndrome. Prolonged pressure on the limbs could lead to permanent tissue damage, or even the loss of the entire limb.

The Signs of IV Infiltration

Doctors typically have to resort to surgery to prevent infiltrated IV fluid from causing lifelong loss of function. A patient can usually determine if something has gone wrong within eight hours, but some symptoms can take up to two days to appear. If you experience any of these signs, call your doctor immediately.

Symptoms of IV infiltration include:

  • Throbbing pain at the IV site
  • Swelling or tightness of the skin
  • Coolness and numbing at the insertion site
  • Skin discoloration
  • Poor circulation

Who Is Responsible for IV Infiltration Injury?

While IV infiltration can be caused by fragile veins as well as poor insertion, the ultimate responsibility rests with the hospital. Even if a patient has poor veins, the hospital staff is duty-bound to monitor your condition and remain vigilant for any possible side effects. Their failure to do so, regardless of the original reason for IV infiltration, is negligent.

Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC has spent nearly a century holding hospitals and healthcare providers accountable for poor standards, preventable damage, and patient harm. Our Pennsylvania medical negligence lawyers have helped injured patients get what they needed to recover from bad surgeons, inattentive nurses, or poor hospital policy.

If you have questions about your medical injury, speak with us in a free consultation. Call (888) 498-3023 so we can talk about how we can help you.

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