Central venous catheters are extremely useful for administering certain types of drugs in a hospital situation. With this kind of catheter, the line is placed in a large vein in the neck, chest, or groin. Unfortunately, there are a number of complications that could arise by using a ventral venous catheter, and you doctor should explain these risks to you so you can make an informed decision about your health. Some of the risks may include pneumothorax (collapsed lung), air embolism (air bubbles obstructing the flow of blood), and hemorrhaging (bleeding). By far, however, the largest risk is infection, and sadly, many infections from central venous catheters could have been prevented with a little extra care from the patient's doctors and nurses. If you developed a central venous catheter infection while in the hospital or at home after care, talk to a medical malpractice lawyer to find out about your rights.
Because catheters are inserted into the body, any kind of catheter can introduce bacteria or viruses to the blood stream. With a central venous catheter, the main infection risk is for a staphylococcus infection, which is common shortened to "staph." Staph infections can be minor, just causing pimples and other mild skin problems. However, in some cases, staph can be deadly, causing pneumonia, meningitis, toxic shock syndrom, and other life-threatening diseases. One strain of staph that is especially popular with catheters causes sepsis, a condition in which the entire body is inflamed. Known commonly as "blood poisoning," sepsis causes your organs to shut down until you eventually die unless it is treated aggressively right away.
Central venous catheters are sterilized, so how can infection occur? Usually, the infection enters the body when the area around the catheter insertion site is not cleaned well enough. Hospital protocol typically calls for cleaning using either an iodine solution or chlorhexidine. While the iodine solution is more commonly used, chlorhexidine does a better job at making sure that the area is bacteria-free. While it is extremely rare that a doctor or nurse would forget or skip the cleaning process altogether, those cutting corners may not clean as thoroughly as necessary for your safety or may compromise the device by touching or dropping the catheter, introducing bacteria to it before it enters your body.
Staph infections and other infections caused by central venous catheters are extremely dangerous. In many cases, they are not caught quickly enough to be treated well, and the patient dies. When a patient has an extremity affected by staph, amputation can save their life, but in the case of a central venous catheter, the infection is in a part of the body that can't be amputated or in the blood. Even if the catheter is removed, you're at risk of developing complications due to the infection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospitals should provide catheter-related infection training to staff, avoid routine replacement of the catheter, and treat the catheter with maximum sterile precautions during insertion. Chlorhexidine is also recommended, and high-risk patients should get antiseptic/antibiotic central venous catheters as an additional precaution. They also make a number of other recommendations, which you can read about here.
Hospitals aren't legally required to follow recommendations, and many don't, which puts your health at risk. However, doctors are legally liable for decisions that cause major medical problems, and with a central venous catheter, you could face an extended stay in the hospital or even death. You have legal rights. If you developed an infection and believe it was due to your medical team's poor decisions and negligence, talk to a medical malpractice lawyer today.