Two Canadian newborns recently underwent emergency treatment after hospital staff accidentally fed breast milk into their veins. The unusual but potentially fatal blunders occurred due to mix-ups with the babies’ feeding tubes and IV lines.
According to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a Canadian healthcare watchdog, one of the babies had to be resuscitated and put on an emergency respirator.
“The results are very tragic and really shouldn’t have happened,” said Dr. Shoo Lee, chief of pediatrics at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto. “It’s preventable.”
Breast milk delivered into the bloodstream rather than through the intestinal track can cause clots, organ failure, and severe infection. In non-developed countries, infants have often died as a result of breast milk mistakes.
Since many preemies lack the ability to suck and swallow, feeding tubes often become necessary for survival. Busy nurses sometimes mistake one for the other.
“In some cases…health-care providers can’t differentiate between infusion system, especially in a rush,” said Christine Koczmara, a spokeswoman for Safe Medication Practices. “From what we’ve seen out there, the potential is that it can recur. It’s important for everybody to realize that.”
To eliminate mistakes completely, Safe Medication Practices recommends using different-colored tubing for feeding and IV lines.