It should not be up to the patient to monitor their own IV for infiltration, but oftentimes this is precisely what happens. It is only after the patient notices something wrong and hits their call light that a nurse makes a proper evaluation of the IV and discovers that infiltration has occurred.
IV infiltration is the clinical term for when the fluid that the IV is supposed to be delivering to the bloodstream is leaking or flowing into surrounding tissues. Though nurses should be evaluating the IV area regularly, it is often the patient who first notices symptoms, which include:
- Edema or swelling in the area
- Pain at the IV site
- A feeling of “tightness” around the needle
The potential side effects of IV infiltration depend largely on the medication being administered. If the medication is non-hazardous to surrounding tissue, the issue can often be address by treating the symptoms while resetting the IV to ensure the patient is receiving proper treatment. But if the medication causes tissue damage, or if failure to properly administer the medication has a negative effect on treatment (such as when a painkiller is wasted in surrounding tissues instead of entering the bloodstream), the ramifications can be more significant.
Though IV infiltration can be a result of bad luck (as when the IV slips due to patient movement) or due to nurse error in misplacing the IV in the first place, the condition should be caught and resolved quickly. When it is not, the patient suffers what can be lasting damage. Nurses should be particularly aware of any medications that are particularly hazardous if infiltration occurs, and should also pay extra attention in instances where the continuous dosing of the drug is necessary to prevent significant health side effects.
If you or someone you love has suffered due to IV infiltration that was not promptly diagnosed and addressed, please consider consulting with an experienced attorney. Patients should expect medical professionals to meet a certain standard of care, and when that standard is not met people should be held accountable.