Air embolism is a lethal condition caused by the improper insertion or removal of a central venous access device (CVAD). If appropriate safeguards are not taken by medical personnel during CVAD insertion or removal, an air bubble can be introduced into an artery or vein and travel to your heart, lungs or brain, causing respiratory failure, cardiac arrest or stroke.
Central venous access devices (CVADs), sometimes called central venous catheters or central lines, are commonly used in hospital or outpatient settings for delivery of IV medications, chemotherapy or other fluids. It is estimated that 5 million CVADs are placed each year in the United States. These CVADs can take many forms, including PICC lines, non-tunneled catheters (subclavian, jugular or femoral), tunneled catheters (Hickman, Broviac, etc.) and implanted ports.
There are strict and well-known guidelines for the safe insertion and removal of these devices so that air embolism does not occur. When these guidelines are followed, air embolism is entirely preventable. In fact, Medicare considers air embolism associated with CVADs to be a “Never Event,” which means that it should never happen with proper care.
Complications Resulting from Air Embolism
Unfortunately, 1150 deaths occur every year as a result of this avoidable complication. Almost universally, these deaths occur because nurses or doctors do not take the time to follow the strict protocols for CVAD insertion and removal. These protocols include such things as making sure that the patient’s head is below his/her heart, instructing the patient to exhale during insertion or removal, making sure the patient is properly hydrated, using an occlusive dressing and applying pressure on the insertion or removal site, etc. If these and other protocols are followed, air bubbles cannot be introduced into the vascular system.
When an air embolism occurs in a healthcare setting, it almost always means that someone has not followed proper procedure.
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Youman & Caputo has extensive knowledge of the issues surrounding air embolism and significant experience successfully litigating air embolism cases. Our attorneys will offer a free consultation and help you determine whether you might be entitled to compensation as a result of your injury. Call 215-302-1999 today.