Hospital errors due to medical tubing

The New York Times had an interesting article about the combination of factors that have led to sometimes deadly errors involving tubing used in hospitals on Friday.

The Time’s Gardner Harris wrote about a mistake involving the use of a feeding tube in Robin Rodgers pregnant women hospitalized with vomiting and weight loss 35 weeks into the pregnancy.

Here’s an excerpt:

... [I]n a mistake that stemmed from years of lax federal oversight of medical devices, the hospital mixed up the tubes. Instead of snaking a tube through Ms. Rodgers’s nose and into her stomach, the nurse instead coupled the liquid-food bag to a tube that entered a vein.

Putting such food directly into the bloodstream is like pouring concrete down a drain. Ms. Rodgers was soon in agony.

Rodgers and her unborn baby both died as a result. Here’s more from the Time’s take on the issues leading to such medical errors:

Experts and standards groups have advocated since 1996 that tubes for different functions be made incompatible — just as different nozzles at gas stations prevent drivers from using the wrong fuel.
But action has been delayed by resistance from the medical-device industry and an approval process at the Food and Drug Administration that can discourage safety-related changes.

Hospitals, tube manufacturers, regulators and standards groups all point fingers at one another to explain the delay.

Hospitalized patients often have an array of clear plastic tubing sticking out of their bodies to deliver or extract medicine, nutrition, fluids, gases or blood to veins, arteries, stomachs, skin, lungs or bladders.

The full article is available here.

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