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Nursing negligence can cause fatal injuries when air is allowed to enter a patient’s bloodstream. Air embolisms are considered preventable throughout the healthcare industry, yet hospital negligence, improper procedures and improper training lead to strokes and the preventable deaths of many patients each year.

Air embolisms occur from intravenous (IV) air introduction into the bloodstream, and while air bubbles typically dissolve in the blood or the lungs, a significant air embolism developed from a central line IV may result in severe brain damage, heart attack, stroke or respiratory failure.

Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Ohio medical malpractice attorney and Cincinnati nursing negligence lawyer.

Mr. Lyon has represented plaintiffs nationwide in a wide variety of hospital negligence, wrongful death and personal injury claims. 

What are Air Embolisms?

Air embolisms are a potentially life-threatening medical event that is often preventable. The serious condition requires prompt diagnosis, or may result in severe patient outcomes.

Air embolisms occur when small amounts of air enter the blood circulation accidentally after relatively common medical procedures—complications from lung biopsy, brain surgery, arterial catheterization (IV introduction) or cardiopulmonary bypasses.

Injuries caused by an air embolism can be quite serious. The air bubbles typically dissolve in the blood or when they enter the lungs, however, once a significant air embolism develops from a fixed IV, it may result in severe brain damage, heart attack, stroke or respiratory failure.

In recent years, the number of deaths and injuries linked to air in IV lines has increased, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Causes of Air Embolism Malpractice

Air Embolism may occur during surgery, or when an IV or catheter is placed into a blood vessel. From the initial injection, air in the blood can travel to the brain or the heart. They may result from improper tubing or improper priming. Improper tubing or catheter removal is another area of medical concern.

Healthcare staff, including physicians and nurses, are trained to prevent air embolism, though injuries happen on daily basis. Air can enter veins or arteries through IV lines in the following ways:

  • Holes in catheter or tubing: tubing can be damaged when sharp objects are used around a central line.
  • Improper priming: An air embolism can occur if the IV tubing is not properly primed or if the IV tubing is primed while it is connected to the patient. Any time air exists in IV tubing and is allowed to enter the vascular system, complications may develop.
  • Improper removal: Improper removal of an IV line can lead to an air embolism.
  • Defective Catheters
  • Ventilator Induced Pulmonary Embolism—an air embolism can occur if there is trauma to the lung. If your lung is compromised, you might be put on a breathing ventilator, and the ventilator could force air into a damaged vein or artery.
  • Defective Heart Stent
  • Direct injection of Air into Vein—air may be accidentally injected directly into a vein or artery during clinical procedures through the misuse of a syringe or tubing.
  • Blood Transfusions
  • Medication Complications
  • Open-heart Surgeries
  • Jugular Vein IV Lines—jugular IVs present high risk for air embolism because they provide direct access to the venous system above the heart.

Nurses can monitor for air bubbles with a pulmonary artery catheter or ultrasound during surgery. Proper procedures and positioning is also important, and it is known that patients placed in a sitting position during IV procedures are at a greater risk for air embolism.

Nursing negligence, medical malpractice, and hospital negligence can be the cause of an injury caused by IV air embolisms. Since these are easily preventable injuries, air embolism malpractice can lead to lawsuits from affected plaintiffs.

Nursing Negligence & Air Embolism Malpractice

Usually, for air embolisms to develop from a central IV line, three things must happen:

  • A patient must have an opening into the venous system
  • The opening in the venous system is usually above heart level
  • A sufficient amount of air enters the venous system

Prevention has been stressed by safety agencies, and some ways to prevent an air embolism include:

  • Proper removal of a central line: a valsalva maneuver helps prevent air from going into the venous system. Using this method, a patient takes a deep breath and holds the breath while the catheter is removed. This helps stabilize vascular system pressure and prevents air from entering when the line is removed.
  • Air occlusive dressing: when a central line is removed, a proper dressing should be applied over the opening to prevent air from entering. This can include a gel antiseptic applied and a transparent dressing on top of it. Tape and gauze are not air occlusive and may present high risk for air embolism. Air occlusive dressing should remain in place until a scab forms.

Air Embolisms: Symptoms & Injuries

Symptoms can vary depending on where the embolism causes a blockage in blood flow. If a large air embolism affects the arteries feeding the brain, it can cause sudden loss of consciousness and convulsions. Other common symptoms may include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Arrhythmia
  • Visual disturbances
  • Disorientation
  • Stroke
  • Apnoea
  • Hypoxia
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Renal Failure

How Does Air Enter Veins Through IV Lines?

Air Embolism is the most dangerous risk factor in IV use. Air embolisms can occur if a nurse or doctor fails to fill up an entire IV line with fluid before connecting the line to the needle or catheter.

Another possible cause a preventable air embolism is the failure of a nurse to examine the IV line for air when replacing an IV bag. If a significant amount of air reaches the heart, it may block blood flow to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism.

Defective Vascular Stent Lawsuits

Abbott Vascular initiated a Class I recall of catheters due to 19 reports of injury. There was one reported death linked to a difficulty removing the balloon sheath. Abbott recalled 449,661 units because physicians could experience difficulty in removing the device sheath.

Such difficulties can result in severe injury, including air embolism, thrombosis, myocardial infarction and death. The recalled products include:

Air Embolism Malpractice Lawsuits

If a doctor or nurse cause or fail to recognize the symptoms of an air embolism, they may be liable for injuries and damages that result, particularly if the patient suffers a heart attack, stroke, respiratory failure, or dies because of a blocked vein or artery.

To prove that a nurse or a physician is negligent, there must be evidence that they provided substandard care, caused, failed to diagnose, or failed to properly treat the condition.

The existence of an air embolism can sometimes be confirmed by a review of medical records, especially if a CT scan was performed. It is crucial to consult a medical malpractice attorney who can investigate and assist you if a nurse or doctor caused an injury that would not have occurred if not for their negligence.

Hospital Error Lawyer can be recovered, including medical costs, pain and suffering, lost wages, and emotional distress. The family of a deceased patient can file a wrongful death claim.

Nursing Negligence: Cardiac Arrest & Stroke

Preventable injuries caused by IV errors and air embolism can be severe and fatal. Air embolism cases which are a result of an IV or catheter in hospitalized patients have a mortality rate of up to 30 percent. Individuals who survive may suffer from permanent injuries.

Complications include brain damage, stroke, blindness, heart attack and death. Once a significant air embolism develops from an IV, it usually results in bodily harm of one kind or another.

When hospitals, nurses, doctors and staff cause injury or fail to recognize symptoms of an air embolism, they may be liable for injuries and damages. After a stroke, heart attack, or respiratory failure, plaintiffs can prove medical malpractice with evidence of substandard care.

Air embolism can often be confirmed by the medical records, especially if certain tests were or were not performed. Consult with a medical malpractice attorney who can investigate and assist you in a nursing negligence claim.

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A Voice for Those who have suffered 

Why are these cases important?

The transition into a nursing home is difficult for both patients and their families. It is a sacrifice, and residents rely heavily on the compassion and competence of nursing home staff and management to provide the best care possible. When nursing homes fail to provide the professional care they promise, and injuries and deaths result, they may be held accountable by Ohio law.

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Questions about Nursing Home Neglect Cases

What is nursing home neglect litigation?

Nursing home neglect has been a serious issue for decades now, and the management of facilities must be held accountable when instances of negligence affect your family.

If an Ohio nursing home fails to provide the professional care they have advertised, and patient injuries and deaths result, the companies may be held responsible in Ohio courts. Large settlements have resulted from the families of victims filing injury claims against Diversicare, Genesis, ManorCare and Laurel homes.

What are common types of nursing home abuse?

Nursing home neglect injuries may result from understaffing, underqualified staff, bad management and poor communication. Abuse and neglect can result in dangerous bedsores and other serious infections. Common types of nursing home abuse may include:

Does a fall in the nursing home count?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates approximately 1,800 nursing home residents die from dangerous falls each year. Residents who survive falls may sustain hip or head injuries which can lead to permanent disabilities.

Because of the new surroundings and staff neglect, many newly admitted nursing home residents will suffer a fall shortly after their arrival. Understaffing is a big factor in these injuries, and the management of nursing homes have a responsibility to prevent falls and accidents.

What about Bed Sores?

Bedsores, also known as pressure sores, pressure ulcers, and skin lesions can be very painful and lead to more serious health problems if not treated promptly. Nursing home staff are well aware that patients confined to beds need to be turned regularly to reduce the risk of developing ulcers. However, when nursing homes are understaffed or fail to properly attend to residents, patients suffer the consequences.

Bedsores, also called decubitus ulcers, are injuries to skin and underlying tissue from prolonged skin pressure. Bedsores commonly develop on bony areas of the body, such as the heels, ankles, hips and tailbone. Common Contributing Factors for Bedsores:

  • Pressure—bedsores are caused by pressure against the skin that limits blood flow to the skin. Blood flow is essential to delivering oxygen and nutrients to tissue.
  • Friction—skin rubbing against clothing or bedding makes skin more vulnerable to injury.
  • Immobility
  • Overmedicated patients
  • Understaffing at nursing homes
  • Lack of sensory perception
  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Nursing home neglect
  • Medical conditions affecting blood flow—diabetes and vascular disease

People most at risk of bedsores have medical conditions that limit their ability to change positions on their own. Bedsores can develop quickly. Most sores heal with treatment, but some are more severe and lead to serious drug resistant infections. Other signs of nursing abuse include:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Restraint marks
  • Lack of hygiene maintenance
  • Untidy living conditions
  • Unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts
  • Bedsores and poor skin conditions
  • Signs of dehydration
  • Unusually sedated residents
  • Weight loss
  • Broken bones & fractures
  • Bruising from unknown injuries
  • A patient that withdraws socially over time
  • Entirely non-communicative patient
  • A fear of physical contact

Bedsores are categorized into four stages, based on their depth, severity and other characteristics. They include:

  • Stage I—a persistent redness, swelling and tenderness on a patient’s skin.
  • Stage II—a loss of some of skin thickness. Appears as a blister, abrasion or shallow crater.
  • Stage III—damage to the full thickness of the skin. A deep lesion or crater is present.
  • Stage IV—a complete loss of the skin. Muscle or bone is exposed.

A bedsore can advance quickly when patients do not receive proper treatment and care in a nursing home or assisted living center. There are various factors associated with developing bedsores, though most involve neglect, understaffing, overmedicating, a lack of nutritional care and patient immobility.

Common Sites of Pressure Sores

  • Tailbone & Buttocks
  • Shoulder blades
  • Spine
  • Backs of arms & legs
  • Back or sides of the head
  • Hips
  • Lower back
  • Heels & ankles
  • Behind the knees

Complications of Bedsores & Skin Infections

  • Cellulitis—an infection of the skin and connected soft tissues.
  • Bone and joint infections—Infections from pressure sores can pass into joints and bones, damaging cartilage and tissue. Bone infections may reduce the function of joints and limbs.
  • Amputation
  • Sepsis
  • Cancer—long-term, unhealed wounds can develop into a type of squamous cell carcinoma
Do these cases settle?

Nursing homes tend to settle out of court when accidents and wrongful deaths occur, and you may seek legal counsel to guide you through the legal process. 

Why Hire the Lyon Firm?

Our Firm will help you find the answers.  The Firm has the experience, resources and dedication to take on difficult and emotional cases and help our clients obtain the justice for the wrong they have suffered. 

 Experience:  Joe Lyon is an experienced Cincinnati Nursing Home Neglect Lawyer. The Lyon Firm has 17 years of experience and success representing individuals and plaintiffs in all fifty states, and in a variety of complex civil litigation matters.   Nursing Home lawsuits can be complex and require industry experts to determine the root cause of an accident or injury. Mr. Lyon has worked with experts nationwide to assist individuals understand why an injury occurred and what can be done to improve their lives in the future. Some cases may go to a jury trial, though many others can be settled out of court.

Resources/Dedication: Mr. Lyon has worked with experts in the fields of accident reconstruction, biomechanics, epidemiology, metallurgy, pharmacology, toxicology, human factors, workplace safety, life care planning, economics, and virtually every medical discipline in successfully representing Plaintiffs across numerous areas of law. The Lyon Firm is dedicated to building the strongest cases possible for clients and their critical interests.

Results:  Mr. Lyon has obtained numerous seven and six figure results in personal injury,  automotive product liability, medical Negligence, construction accidents, and auto dealership negligence cases.  The cases have involved successfully litigating against some of  the largest companies in the world 

Learn About the Medical Malpractice Legal Process

Video: Investigating Medical Malpractice

The process for investigating a medical malpractice claims involves the following steps: 

  1. Gather a full and informed history from the family addressing their concerns and thoughts on what went wrong; 
  2. Gather the complete medical records including film studies, if any; 
  3. Review of the records and applicable medical literature by attorneys; 
  4. Review of the records by a qualified physician practicing in the relevant areas on standard of care and causation; 
  5. Final consultation with expert to review opinions;
  6. Signing of Affidavit of Merit by the Expert before case filing, for cases where medical malpractice is identified. 

Popular Ohio Nursing Home Management
that have Faced Penalty

In recent years, several Ohio nursing homes have faced personal injury claims for failing to protect residents. 

Diversicare of St. Theresa

Cincinnati, Ohio

Diversicare of Siena Woods

Dayton, Ohio

Diversicare of Bradford Place

Hamilton, Ohio

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