Cincinnati Hospital Negligence Lawyer reviews Air Embolisms Resulting from Negligent Surgical Procedures

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).

Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Ohio medical malpractice attorney. Mr. Lyon has represented plaintiffs nationwide in a wide variety of medical negligence, wrongful death and injury claims. 

The Risks & Causes of Air Embolisms

If the proper precautions are not taken by medical professionals, air can enter the veins and arteries during some invasive surgical procedures. According to a study in the Journal of Minimal Access Surgery, up to 80 percent of brain surgeries result in an air embolism of some degree.

Medical professionals usually detect and correct the embolism before it becomes a serious issue, though that is not always the case. Other risk factors for air embolism include the following:

  • 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.

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. Other ways air may enter the bloodstream from IV lines include:

  • Defective catheter or tubing: Tubing can be damaged when scissors or other sharp objects are used around an IV, allowing air to enter the 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.
  • Improper removal of IV line: Improper removal of an IV can lead to an air embolism. When IV lines are removed, they create an opening into the vein, and professionals must be certain no air is sucked back into the venous system.

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.

Compensation 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.

If you or a loved one has suffered from a preventable air embolism event, 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 these critical questions.