A central line, also called a central venous catheter, is a flexible tube inserted into a large vein close to the heart. It is used to deliver nutrients, medicines or other fluids to a person over an extended period of time, sometimes after surgery. In two Oregon cases, however, the central line was mistakenly inserted too far, going beyond the vein and into the heart, and causing serious
Misplaced Central Line Causes Severe Injury
In the first case, a 45-year-old woman was undergoing an exploratory laparoscopy to determine the cause of abdominal pain. Prior to the surgery, a central line was inserted. Although the laparoscopy went as planned, afterwards the woman began experiencing severe pain. Several hours went by before a doctor reviewed an x-ray to determine if the central line was positioned appropriately. He then realized that it had been inserted too far down and went beyond the vein, and into the right atrium of the woman’s heart.
Tragically, prior to determining that the central line was misplaced, fluids were pumped through the line and went into the space between the woman’s heart and the protective sac that surrounds the heart. The fluid building up around the heart prevented it from filling adequately, and the pressure essentially crushed the heart, causing a phenomenon called “cardiac tamponade.” This eventually resulted in cardiac arrest. Although the woman was resuscitated, the prolonged lack of oxygen caused severe brain injury.
The jury found the hospital negligent, and awarded the woman and her family a multi-million dollar verdict.
Failure to Monitor Central Line Causes Patient’s Death
In the second case, a 60-year-old woman experienced complications after a procedure to repair a hernia. As a precaution, a central line was inserted to provide her with nutrition. When the doctor inserted the central line, he mistakenly placed a 30 cm line instead of a 16 cm line into the woman’s body. This resulted in the central line penetrating the atrium of the heart, and going through the valve separating the upper and lower heart chambers.
Although a routine x-ray taken to confirm the central line placement clearly showed its dangerous position, the doctor never reviewed the x-ray.
The doctor ordered that the line be used to infuse nutrients into the patient. The fluid filled the sac surrounding the heart. The woman cried for help and eventually lost consciousness. Tragically, in an attempt to resuscitate her, more fluid was infused into the line. Her heart could not withstand this additional pressure and she died of cardiac tamponade.
The woman’s family was told she died of a heart attack. They were confused by the cause of death since she never experienced heart disease. They requested an autopsy, which revealed the misplaced central line.
A jury found the woman’s doctor negligent and awarded the family $1 million in punitive damages.
Contact an Attorney
If you believe you or a loved one has experienced surgical negligence, such as a misplaced central line, contact an experienced malpractice attorney. A lawyer can advise you of potential claims and advocate on your behalf.