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Liability Following Misplaced Feeding Tube Errors

Liability Following Misplaced Feeding Tube Errors

Hospital patients who are very sick or weak may lose the ability to eat on their own. If this is the case, doctors or nurses may have to insert a feeding tube to deliver a liquid diet with the nutrients the patient needs to live. These feeding tubes can go through a patient's nose, mouth, or through the skin in the abdomen directly into the stomach. Feeding tubes can be life-saving, however there is risk for misplacement. Even though doctors and nurses go through extensive training in tube insertion, and should initially and continually check for proper placement of feeding tubes, misplacement still wrongfully happens and goes undetected.

Problems that can result from a misplaced feeding tube may include:

  • Liquid food delivered straight into the bloodstream instead of the digestive system
  • Liquid food delivered to the lungs instead of the stomach
  • Stomach leaks
  • Gastric hemorrhaging
  • Tubal migration

I have personally represented clients who have been the victims of negligence and improperly placed feeding tubes at long care rehab facilities. My client was a completely helpless victim and the accident happened for no other reason than the rehab facility simply wasn’t paying attention to what it was doing.

This type of careless conduct is unnecessary but often results in serious injury or even death. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or complications caused by a misplaced feeding tube, an Indiana medical malpractice attorney can help you hold the responsible doctor or nurse liable for your injuries.

Traditionally, one of three methods were used to ensure proper feeding tube placement: auscultation, bubbling, or aspirate appearance. However, over recent years, studies have indicated that these methods are not reliable in verifying proper tube placement. There are many new and reliable ways for hospital staff to check for proper feeding tube placement, such as radiographs of the chest, endoscopy, fluoroscopy, and pH testing combined with another method. Nevertheless, according to the Patient Safety Authority, old habits die hard among doctors and nurses, who often continue to employ the old methods in spite of the availability of the newer, more reliable methods.

Doctors and nurses also often interpret the lack of choking or coughing to mean that a feeding tube is properly placed. However, patients who have severe dementia or diminished mental capacity may no longer have gag reflexes or the ability to cough or swallow. These patients are considered to be at the highest risk for misplacement and should not receive feeding tubes, but often do. Also at a high risk for misplacement are patients who are uncooperative, critically ill, or who have had facial trauma or surgery.

There is no reason why feeding tube misplacement should go undetected. Medical providers should use one of the reliable methods of checking for proper placement at the time of insertion, and should regularly check to make sure the tube is in place and has not moved or migrated throughout the duration of feeding tube use. Doctors and nurses should no longer employ the old methods of verification, and should never assume that a feeding tube is properly placed simply because the patient is not coughing or choking. Unfortunately, hospital staff do not always follow take proper precautions, and misplaced feeding tubes cause complications, injuries, and even death.

In the event of such injury or death, an experienced Indiana medical malpractice attorney can help you or your family hold the medical professionals liable for their mistakes, and help you receive a fair settlement for what you are owed.

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