Infusion pumps are widely used in hospitals to deliver hormones, insulin, and pain relievers, as well as other medications. Often, infusion pumps are used to deliver high-alert medications, because of the accuracy and small dosages the machines can provide. Since they are often used to deliver potentially dangerous drugs, an error with either the pump itself or its operator can have serious, even deadly, consequences. Problems with infusion pumps can occur anywhere from the design or manufacturing of the pump to the setup and operation in a hospital setting.
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A design flaw in the pump could include a lack of free flow guard, interface issues, alarm issues, easily breakable parts, or battery failures. Interface issues are problems with human and machine interaction. Manuals, on-screen instructions, and warnings can be unclear, leading to unsafe operation of the infusion pump. Alarm issues can be a lack of alarms, meaning that operators would be unaware of problems, or too many alarms, causing operators to ignore them, so problems could go unnoticed.
An error in manufacturing could mean broken or easily breakable parts, safety features and warning failures, or flaws leading to shocking, burning, or melting of the pump. Defective batteries can also cause problems with the infusion pump.
In any given hospital, there will be multiple types and brands of infusion pumps. Training every operator to use every type of pump is time consuming, and errors can result because of unfamiliarity with the machines. Some of these errors include failure to use a roller clamp to stop free flow, or key bounce, which occurs when the operator unknowingly types a number in twice, resulting in incorrect doses of medication being delivered to the patient.
One of the most dangerous effects of infusion pump errors, free flow, can result in serious injury and death. Free flow commonly occurs when the infusion pump is turned off, but the pump is located above the tubing, so gravity causes medicine to rush out of the pump and into the patient all at once. Incorrect dosing or other failures in the pump or operation of the pump, including turning off the free-flow guard or incorrectly loading the tubing, can also cause free flow.
Older pumps do not always contain free-flow protection. In order to stop free flow, the operator of the machine must clamp the tube with a roller clamp. The differences between pumps with and without free flow protection are miniscule, and an operator may not use the roller clamp, assuming that the pump is protected.
Oxytocin & Infusion Pumps
Infusion pumps are often used to deliver drugs to mothers during labor. Oxytocin, a drug commonly used to induce and augment labor, can be dangerous in high doses. If a pump failure causes free flow, the high doses of oxytocin could seriously injure or kill the mother or baby.
Get Help From Our Team
If you or your loved one has been injured or killed due to issues involving an infusion pump, seek legal counsel. The designer, manufacturer, or operator of the pump may be held liable for their negligence. Contact an experienced Moberly personal injury attorney at the law firm of Gump & Faiella.