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What is IV Infiltration?

by | Mar 31, 2020 | Medical Malpractice

Intravenous therapy is a therapy where a needle or a syringe delivers fluids, like saline, directly into the veins. One of the most common reasons patients need intravenous therapy (IV therapy) is to replace fluids lost due to dehydration by sweating, vomiting, and frequent urination.

Typically, hooking a patient up to an IV is the first thing a nurse will do after triage and admitting. The IV is connected to a bag of fluids that drips slowly and consistently down a tube to a needle that penetrates the skin and goes directly into the bloodstream. An IV pump regulates how much fluid comes out of the IV bag.

The bag of fluids contains potassium, sodium, and glucose – essentials when it comes to bodily function. Saline, which is 0.9% sodium chloride, is most used for dehydration.

Another common use for IVs is delivering pain medication. IVs help pain medications to reach the bloodstream faster and relieve the patient’s pain. It’s quicker than taking a pill or tablet orally. Furthermore, because pain medications are often narcotics, IVs can regulate how much medication a patient is receiving.

According to the expert consumer health information website Healthline, the quantity and rate of IV fluids given depend on body size, age, and medical condition. The regulation of IV fluids ensures the dripping fluids are the correct amount at the right rate. Receiving too much or too little can cause complications.


The last most common reason for IV use is blood transfusions. Thousands of patients receive blood transfusions daily. That typically occurs following a traumatic injury or an extreme loss of blood.


However, IV therapy can sometimes go wrong, such as in the case of IV infiltration. When the intravenous fluid leaks into the surrounding tissue, it is called IV infiltration or extraversion. IV infiltration is often the result of medical malpractice because the IV was improperly placed.


An example of a medical malpractice case that cites IV infiltration took place in Baltimore, Maryland, at St. Joseph Medical Center. The plaintiff – an adult male – was hospitalized in 2013 from February 15th through February 28th. He claimed he suffered IV infiltration injuries to his right arm because healthcare providers did not place the IV properly and monitored him after infiltration. The injuries resulted in permanent scarring.


Also, he claimed none of the medical staff obtained consent from him during his stay at St. Joseph Medical Center regarding the insertion of an IV. While it can be surprising that the man did not sign a consent form, the treatment was in the patient’s best interest as a matter of necessity in an emergency. However, the plaintiff required additional surgery to repair the infiltration injury.


Most malpractice lawsuits like this are ruled in favor of the defense. However, this should not discourage you from filing an IV infiltration lawsuit if you are the victim of IV extraversion.