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Newborn Brain Injury Due to Improperly Placed IV Line

Lawsuit Against Medstar Georgetown Medical Center | August 18, 2020

On August 18, 2020, WVFO attorneys Christopher Norman and Kieran Murphy filed a medical malpractice claim on behalf of a minor child who suffered a brain injury due to an improperly placed IV line in her scalp.

The complaint alleges that at 6:48 a.m. on June 24, 2014, child was admitted to MedStar Georgetown Medical Center for a pediatric visit due to her parents’ concerns that she was not feeding well. She was only 22 days old at the time of the visit. At 10:01 a.m. on June 24, 2014, a pediatrician examined the child. Due to concerns for dehydration and possible hypothermia based on a rectal temperature measurement of 35.8 Celsius, the child was referred to the emergency department “to have some blood work done and possibly some hydration.” At 12:08 p.m., more than two hours after her initial evaluation, the child was finally seen by a nurse in the emergency department. The nurse documented that the child was in “no actual or suspected pain.” At 12:08 p.m., the child had another rectal temperature measurement taken, which read 36.4 Celsius. This was a normal and reassuring temperature measurement and was inconsistent with a diagnosis or concern for hypothermia. At 1:50 p.m., more than three hours after her initial evaluation, the child was documented to be tolerating a formula feed in the waiting room and to be resting in no apparent distress. At 3:30 p.m., more than five hours after her initial evaluation, another nurse documented that the child was “pink, moving all extremities, [and] being held by dad when RN entered room.” At an unidentified time on June 24, 2014, an IV was placed in the child’s scalp by “Jane RN” according to a subsequent note transcribed late on June 24, 2014. In an addendum added more than nineteen (19) hours later at 12:47 p.m. on June 25, 2014, a ED nurse documented that “ED RNs were unsuccessful at gaining IV access on patient after 4 attempts. ... PICU RN called to place IV and was successful at placing a 24g PIV in patient’s scalp. ED RNs did not witness IV placement.” Despite placing a PIV in the child’s scalp and despite the difficulty in properly placing the PIV, the PICU nurse failed to document her involvement in the care of the child, in violation of the national standard of care and in violation of the hospital’s internal policies and protocols for nurses. At 5:42 p.m. on June 24, 2014, more than seven hours after her initial evaluation, the child was given a 60 ml bolus of normal saline. Within ten seconds of the IV infusion, the child stopped breathing, went limp, and turned blue in her chest, face, and upper extremities. Compressions were started and the child was bagged. At 6:08 p.m. on June 24, 2014, after almost thirty consecutive minutes of chest compressions, compressions were stopped. At 6:16 p.m. on June 24, 2014, the child’s test results showed evidence of severe acidosis. At 6:35 p.m., the child was placed on the transport stretcher into the pediatric incubator and was transported to the pediatric intensive care unit and pediatric emergency medicine unit. At 6:48 p.m., continuous invasive mechanical ventilation was initiated. At 6:56 p.m., pediatric induced hypothermia was initiated due to the child’s cardiac arrest. An MRI found “multiple small infarctions in the periventricular white matter, predominantly posteriorly, in the right cerebellum, and 2 tiny left parietal cortical infarctions” which were consistent with embolism. The child has been diagnosed with and now suffers from seizure disorder, stroke, neurodevelopmental delays, neurocognitive disorder, cortical visual impairment, fine motor impairment, lack of coordination, facial asymmetry, and other injuries.

The child’s injuries were a result of the negligence of MedStar Georgetown Medical Center and its employees. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants failed to properly clear the IV line before running it into the child’s scalp, causing an embolism to enter her veins. The child will require significant medical care and treatment for the rest of her life.

The action is pending in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia.

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