One of the 29 “never events” that the National Quality Forum has identified that should not ever occur in healthcare settings is an intravascular air embolism. When air is allowed to enter the blood stream, it can be fatal or cause injuries that can be life altering. Air embolisms are fairly rare as they are preventable in medical settings when the correct procedures and precautions are used. Unfortunately, that is not always the case and victims of these errors are the ones who pay the price.
How Air Embolisms Occur
In a medical setting, air embolisms generally occur from intravenous introduction of air into the blood stream. This can be from an injection or when a catheter or IV is placed into a blood vessel. It can also occur during surgery. Once an air pocket is in the blood, it can travel to the heart or the brain and cause blockages that can be fatal. Causes of air embolisms can be:
- Ruptured catheter or tubing. Small holes in tubing can allow air into the IV
- Improper priming of tubing. If the tubing is not properly primed or primed while attached to the patient
- Improper removal of catheter or tubing. When an IV is removed, there is danger of air entering the blood stream.
Effects Of An Air Embolism
While air embolisms are preventable, once they do occur they are often fatal. An air embolism caused by a catheter or IV has a 30% mortality rate in patients. However, even those who survive may have injuries that cause permanent damage. Some of the symptoms and complications of an air embolism are:
- Heart attack
- Brain damage
Preventing An Air Embolism
Healthcare professionals such as nurses and doctors are well trained on how to prevent air embolism and how to monitor for them during surgeries and medical procedures. Some preventive measures are:
- Use proper IV and injection procedures to ensure no air is allowed into the patient’s blood.
- Monitoring for air bubbles with an ultrasound or pulmonary artery catheter during surgery
- Positioning patient for surgery or IV insertion. For IV procedures, patients that are put in a sitting position can be at higher risk for an air embolism.
Air Embolism Injury Attorneys
Any air embolism injury can result in many health issues and even death for the victim. In many cases, a serious air embolism injury that happens in a healthcare environment is grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, we have represented many clients successfully in pursuing Illinois medical malpractice cases involving air embolisms, resulting in financial compensation for their medical bills, lost income and even wrongful death. We offer a free consultation to discuss your case if you or a loved one was a victim of an air embolism injury. Call us today. 888-424-5757