IV Infiltration Can Cause Nerve Damage, Burns, or Amputation

Infiltration is not a common complication of an intravenous (IV) line. It can cause a range of symptoms, from irritation to tissue death, when it happens.

IV infiltration could entitle you to damages for medical malpractice. These damages would cover your medical expenses to treat the IV infiltration, lost income, and the pain and suffering resulting from the complication.

Here are some facts about IV infiltration and how it causes nerve damage, burns, amputation, and other severe consequences.

How Do IV Lines Work? 

An IV line includes a catheter that delivers drugs directly into your bloodstream

Doctors choose IV administration of drugs for several reasons:

  • Drugs work quickly
  • Drugs enter the bloodstream without alteration by the digestive system
  • IVs administer drugs over time
  • IVs administer drugs in small doses

Nurses often set up the IV line. They insert a needle into a vein in your hand, wrist, or elbow. The nurse uses the needle to guide a catheter into your vein, then removes the needle. The catheter includes a fitting that attaches to an IV bag or syringe holding the medication.

What is IV Infiltration?

IV infiltration happens when medication infuses into the tissue surrounding the IV site instead of going into the vein. IV infiltration happens in about 10% of IV treatments.

IV infiltration can happen for a few reasons, including:

  • Medication leaks around the catheter into the surrounding tissue
  • The catheter slips out of the vein
  • The needle pushes through the vein, leaving a hole where the medication can leak from the vein
  • Medication passes through the vein wall into the tissue

In some cases, IV infiltration is fairly harmless. The nurse monitoring the patient will notice the signs of IV infiltration and take steps to address them.

What Are the Symptoms of IV Infiltration?

Some symptoms that indicate possible IV infiltration include:

  • Swelling
  • Tightness at the IV site
  • Pain
  • Burning
  • Discoloration
  • Cool skin

A nurse can also identify IV infiltration by looking at the medication. The fluid pressure in the catheter from IV infiltration can cause the flow to slow down or stop.

Treating IV Infiltration

A doctor or nurse can treat IV infiltration by removing the catheter. The healthcare provider will recommend hot or cold compresses depending on the medication. They will elevate the limb and may administer additional medicine to reduce the swelling.

Over time, your body should absorb the infiltrated medication and reduce the swelling.

What Are Some Effects and Complications of IV Infiltration?

While IV infiltration often has no adverse effects on the patient, some cases can produce serious complications, including:


Some medications can irritate and inflame soft tissue. Burns happen when a chemical reaction damages or destroys cells. Depending on the medicine, it can react with the muscle, fat, and skin tissue, causing burns.

Nerve Damage

Neurotoxic medications, like anesthetics, can damage nerves when they leak from a vein. 

In many cases, doctors cannot treat this type of nerve damage, and you will experience lifelong symptoms such as:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Weakness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of dexterity
  • Loss of sensitivity to temperature or pressure

The location of these symptoms will depend on where the IV infiltration occurred. For example, if your catheter was inserted into the back of your hand, you may experience symptoms in your hand and fingers, but not further up your arm.

Compartment Syndrome

The most severe consequence of IV infiltration is compartment syndrome. Compartment syndrome happens when your tissue swells so much that it squeezes your blood vessels.

Every cell in your body needs oxygen to survive. When swelling cuts off your circulation, your cells die.

Doctors can try to relieve the swelling. But if they cannot restore circulation, they may recommend amputation.

Medical Malpractice and IV Infiltration

Medical malpractice requires you to prove that your healthcare professional failed to provide reasonable care under the circumstances. Not every medical error constitutes medical malpractice.

A nurse could accidentally cause IV infiltration without acting negligently. But if the nurse fails to monitor you or treat you when the symptoms appear, the nurse may have acted negligently. 

If you’ve suffered complications due to IV infiltration, contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to see if you have a valid claim for damages. 

Contact Our Medical Malpractice Law Firm in South Florida

If you’ve been injured in an accident, please contact our experienced personal injury lawyers in Florida at Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation today. We have three convenient locations in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach.

We proudly serve Palm Beach County, Broward County, and its surrounding areas:

Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – Boca Raton Law Office
7000 W Palmetto Park Rd #500
Boca Raton, FL 33433
(561) 347-7770

Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – Fort Lauderdale Law Office
200 S.E. 6th Street #203
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
(954) 287-0566

Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – West Palm Beach Law Office
319 Clematis St #203
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
(561) 556-7873