Cincinnati Medical Malpractice Lawyer and Ohio Hospital Negligence Attorney Reviews Cases of Air Embolism Malpractice and Nursing Negligence


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. 


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
  • Medication Complications

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.

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.

If you or a loved one has suffered from a preventable air embolism injury, and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care in Ohio, contact The Lyon Firm at (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer critical questions regarding air embolism malpractice.