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Report: Infusion pumps still pose significant health hazards

A recent report from ECRI Institute (formerly known as Emergency Care Research Institute), a prominent nonprofit organization that works to improve patient care, names infusion pump errors as the top health care technology hazard for 2017. The report should raise alarms, since infusions pumps enjoy widespread use in hospitals and are generally considered safe because of improved safety mechanisms.

What Is An Infusion Pump?

Hospitals and health care providers use infusion pumps to administer fluids, medication and nutrients in quantities and frequencies that would be difficult for staff to do manually. For instance, it can deliver small quantities of injections every minute or provide varying levels of injections by the day. Infusion pumps are typically administered intravenously.

The Risk Of 'IV Free Flow' Remains

According to the report, the institute continues to receive reports of "IV free flow," which is when an error in the infusion pump causes the machine to administer too much medication. This could lead to a fatal overdose if hospital staff does not catch the error in time.

The report states that there are several steps that health care providers can take to prevent IV free flow:

  • Careful inspection of the infusion pump to look for signs of damage or malfunction before using on a patient
  • Making sure to use the roller clamp, which can be used to close off IV tubing
  • Checking the drip chamber under the medication reservoir to look for signs of IV free flow

An official with ECRI said the reason his organization chose infusion pump errors as the top hazard is because hospital staff are unaware that risks still exist. Staff should not assume that a machine's safety mechanisms are properly functioning or can catch everything.

Know Your Rights

As a patient or the spouse or parent of a patient, remember that you can ask staff to look at the infusion pump before use. You can also speak up if you suspect something is wrong.

If an infusion pump error was the reason for any unnecessary pain and suffering or the death of a loved one, we invite you to talk with an experienced medical malpractice attorney at our firm about your options for pursuing compensation.

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