When is an IV tubing Misconnection Error Worth Suing Over?

IV tubing misconnection errors can cause serious injury or death. A tubing misconnection error –also known as tubing mix-up – occurs when doctors, nurses or healthcare givers unintentionally connect one end of an intravenous (IV) tube to the wrong device, an aspect that often results in serious pain, injury or even death to the patient.

There are plenty of cases where IV tubing errors have led to death. An apt example is in the U.S. where a 35-year-old woman checked into a medical facility feeling sick. She was put under several tests and later admitted for dehydration, chronic vomiting, and weight loss. The doctor immediately ordered enteral feeding –being fed food by a tube through the nose so that the food ends in the stomach – so as to reverse dehydration and stabilize her weight until her child was born. Sadly, the nurse, by mistake, attached a bag containing to a tube the vein of the pregnant woman via IV thus delivering food directly into her vein.

Sadly, the woman didn’t survive the agony and pain of such an error. She passed away leaving behind a first born –now a 3-year old- without a mother. Should her family have sued the the hospital or manufacturer of the IV tubing? In short, when is a misconception error in IV tubing worth suing?

Scope of the Problem

Before getting to answer the question posed above, it would be ideal to first find out where the real problem lies when it comes to IV tubing misconnection error(s). Based on reports published by The Joint Commission (TJC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) – bodies tasked with overseeing patient safety, especially those concerned with tubing and catheter misconnection errors are significantly under-reported. This is despite the fact that a lot of misconnection errors lead to serious bodily harm and death in patients.

Researchers have managed to trace hundreds of serious injuries or deaths to tube mix-up. To back them up, a survey of hospitals carried out three years ago found that 16% of them had experienced matters to do with feeding tube mix-up. Today, the statistics are much worse with little to no improvement being the order of the day. Governments seem not to be in a hurry to implement laws that will such cases improving. Hospitals, healthcare providers and manufacturers aren’t that good either with all them pointing fingers to one another.

What Causes IV Tubing Misconnection Errors?

Misconnection errors happens when a nurse or any other caregiver connect one end of a tube to the wrong device or tube, such as a blood pressure monitor being connected to a needles IV port. Also, such an error can occur when a hospitalized patients has got plenty of unmarked clear plastic tubes that run into and out of the arteries, veins, lungs, bladders, stomach and skin to assist in the delivery or extraction of gases and blood.

The above is not all. In terms of enteral feeding, the firms that manufacture feeding tubes aren’t necessarily the same that make liquid nutrition bags or feeding pumps, an aspect that accounts for a lack of similarity in medical products that are supposed to work in unison. Other causes of such errors across the medical fraternity include inadequate training, poor lighting in the patient’s room, time pressure, fatigue, and rotating shift work.

Steps to Prevent/Minimize Tubing Errors

IV tubing errors are preventable. Nurses who constantly interact with patients with multiple tubes need to be aware of the risks of accidentally connecting the wrong tubing, and must take some initiatives aimed at ensuring that such risks are decreased. There are many ways or steps that can be taken so as to decrease IV tubing misconnection errors. For instance, there is a need to minimize nursing fatigue, connect all the tubing under ideal lighting conditions, and route tubes that have different purposes in different directions.

The above is not all. To ensure that such cases become a thing of the past, then nurses need to ensure that they do not use additional connectors and adaptors in enteral feedings in addition to labeling or coloring tubes according to function while making sure that all the staff are aware of them. Lastly, when it comes to moving a patient to a new facility, it’s important to recheck the connections of the tubing in place and subsequently trace them back to their origin. This way, a lot of jurisdictions across the globe will report very few or no cases of IV tubing misconnection errors at all.

What to Do If You Are a Victim of IV Misconnection

In the event that you, a relative, or a member of your family gets injured due to an IV misconnection error, first, make sure that you note down as much as possible regarding the circumstances while they are still fresh on your mind. Be sure to note down details such as the type of medication, the time when the error occurred, names of the staff on duty and the hospital, and the types of tubing in use. Such information can be very useful when it comes to documenting any potential claims related to medical malpractice in addition to trying to obtain appropriate follow up care. If possible, go ahead and take some photos of the injured areas and all the equipment used as soon as possible. After you are done, go and obtain your records from the medical records department so as to be assisted by an experienced medical malpractice attorney in your area. Your medical malpractice attorney will review your documents to determine whether appropriate standards of care were followed and if not, legal avenues are available in a bid to recover compensation for losses such as disability, pain, wrongful death, suffering and future medical expenses among others.


Finding an Attorney

Have you or your family member, friend or relative suffered on account of an IV tubing misconnection error? If so, contact an attorney immediately for assistance. Don’t live with pain while the ones responsible aren’t held accountable.

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