By: Bell Law Firm
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Crossing the Line: The Devastating Harm of Placing an IV Line Into the Carotid Artery
Sometimes doctors decide to place an IV line in the internal jugular (“IJ”) vein, which runs inside the neck—right next to the carotid artery. Especially when they decide not to use ultrasound guidance, medical providers sometimes miss the IJ, and insert the IV into the carotid artery. The consequences can be devastating.
Doctors are then on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, if the line is not promptly removed, the patient may suffer a blood-clot, neurologic deficits, and stroke. Immediate removal of the line, on the other hand, can result in uncontrolled bleeding, among other problems. Either way, the risks to the patient are high.
According to one study published by the National Institutes of Health, arterial punctures occur in as high as 9.3% of central IV-line placements. Read the study here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4613416/
In a dramatic (but not unusual) case we recently worked on, an ER doctor chose to “find” the IJ vein by feel, instead of ultrasound. When blood squirted out of the patient’s neck to wall behind the patient’s bed, the doctor realized—too late—that she had inserted the line into the carotid artery. In a panic, the doctor abandoned the patient to the nursing staff, and the patient died within an hour.
The Bell Law Firm represents clients who have suffered death or catastrophic injury in medical malpractice and other personal-injury cases.