Medical Errors Related to Forgotten Catheters

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Medical Errors Related to Forgotten Catheters

Medical errors may arise as a result of forgotten central venous catheters (CVC), according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.   The study reports that as many as one in five healthcare workers may not be able to recall whether their patients have central line.  Not surprisingly, teaching physicians and hospitalists were more likely to be unaware of the CVC, compared with interns, residents, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants.  This is concerning because a central  catheter carries a risk of infection.  If an unneeded central line is forgotten, and the patient acquires a blood-borne staph infection that results in injury or death, a claim for medical negligence may exist.

CVCs are a port of entry for Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis infections.  One comment to the Annals of Internal Medicine noted that “

[e]ven if, in theory, infection rates do not differ when the physician responsible for orchestrating care is unaware of the presence of a CVC … it irks me that we would be comfortable being unaware that a dangerous implement we inserted into our patient’s body remains and might no longer be needed.”  But, naturally, a forgotten, unused catheter is going to increase the risk of infection.  Not only does it serve as a port of entry for infection, the line must be vigilantly maintained to reduce the risk of infection.  How likely is that to occur with a forgotten line?

The risk of death and injury from bloodstream infection, sepsis, septic shock and organ failure related to central line use was such a concern that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality commissioned research into ways to reduce infection rates.  Both the National Patient Safety Goals and recommendations published by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement recommend heightened vigilance to prevent infection and promote early detection of bacteremia (bloodstream infections).  One of the recommendations is daily review of the ongoing need for the catheter.

As an Ohio medical malpractice attorney I review numerous medical journals on a regular basis to be on the lookout for malpractice trends and triggers.  This latest study points out that we have a long way to go to prevent unnecessary medical errors.

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By David Kulwicki|2019-03-18T22:02:01+00:00October 21st, 2014|Medical Error|Comments Off on Medical Errors Related to Forgotten Catheters

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