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IV Infiltration Complications

by | Mar 31, 2020 | Medical Malpractice

IVs, or intravenous therapy, works by delivering liquids such as medications, blood, or saline, directly into a patient’s bloodstream via a needle. In fact, an IV works because a plastic piece called a catheter is introduced into the vein by a needle.


Subsequently, the needle is removed, while the small plastic cannula remains in place. The catheter is taped in order to be fixed to the patient’s skin. A tube connected to a bag is put in place so liquid may flow into the bloodstream. 

Unfortunately, complications can occur when or after an IV is placed. Despite being common, IV therapy is not foolproof, and a patient may experience IV infiltration.


IV infiltration occurs when the liquid leaks into the surrounding tissue instead of being delivered into the vein. It can be caused when IV pierces through a vein, or when the wrong size catheter is being used or becomes dislodged. It can also happen when the IV is improperly placed. 


Healthcare providers are not always at fault for IV infiltration. Sometimes IV infiltration can occur because the patient flexed a joint or got in or out of bed. Therefore, patients should be closely monitored after an IV insertion.

Signs of IV infiltration may be:

  • Skin appearing white or blanched
  • Swelling
  • Discomfort
  • Redness
  • Stretched skin
  • Fluid leaking
  • Slowed or stopped the liquid flow from the IV

Complications can range from mild discomfort to serious injuries. IV infiltration complications include:

  • Skin damage like ulcers or blisters
  • Vein ruptures
  • Serious infections
  • Permanent nerve damage
  • Possible amputation of the affected extremity

These can often be prevented or relieved by medical professionals.

One sure sign of IV infiltration is inflammation or swelling at or near the IV site. The skin may feel stretched out or taut and cool to the touch. Some patients may experience intense pain, while others experience mild discomfort. 


Often, the length of the IV infiltration determines the symptoms a person feels. Other indications of skin issues are impaired blood circulation, discoloration, and numbness. IV infiltration can lead to excessive fluids in at least one of the compartments of the arm causing damage to arteries, muscles, and nerves if left untreated and unchecked. Typically, surgery is necessary to prevent permanent loss of body function. Also, treatment can prevent amputation.


All healthcare providers – doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel – have a responsibility to adhere to a standard of care. When avoiding IV infiltration injuries, the standard of care includes the proper insertion of needles, choosing the right type and size of the catheter, and following all safety guidelines when inserting IVs. In addition, medical staff should check patients’ IV sites regularly and monitor them. Most serious IV infiltration complications can be avoided if medical personnel address issues quickly and early on.


If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of IV infiltration, please contact our professional and highly qualified law firm. We can discuss your options for pursuing a medical malpractice suit for IV infiltration.