Intravenous Fluid Contamination

Intravenous fluid therapy is the infusion of liquid substances directly into a vein.  IV therapy is a cornerstone of medicine and, depending upon the circumstances, can be life-saving.  While fluid therapy may provide extraordinary benefits, it can also be life-threatening if:
  • incorrect fluids are infused,
  • the correct fluids are infused in an incorrect amount, or
  • fluids from a contaminated IV bag are infused.
The fluids typically used in clinical practice are colloids, crystalloids, and blood products.  Colloid solutions contain large molecules, such as proteins, that do not pass through cell membranes.  When infused, colloids remain in the intravascular compartment and increase intravascular volume.  Examples of colloid solutions include whole human blood U.S.P., and Hetastarch.  Crystalloid solutions contain small molecules that flow easily across cell membranes, increasing fluid volume in the intersititial (intracellular) and intravascular (extracellular) spaces.  Crystalloids are subdivided into three categories: (1) isotonic, (2) hypotonic, and (3) hypertonic. 

Examples of isotonic crystalloids, which often are administered for volume replacement for the management of shock, include:
  • 0.9% sodium chloride (also known as "normal saline"),
  • lactated Ringer's solution (also known as "Hartmann solution"),
  • Plasmalyte-A,
  • Normosol-R,
  • Ringer's solution, and
  • 5% dextrose in water (D5W).
Examples of hypotonic crystalloids, which have a lower concentration of electrolytes than body plasma, include:
  • 0.45% sodium chloride,
  • 2.5% dextrose in water, and
  • 2% dextrose in water.
Examples of hypertonic crystalloids, which have a higher concentration of electrolytes than body plasma, include:
  • 3.0% saline.
  • 7.0% saline,
  • 7.5% saline, and
  • 5% glucose.
In addition to intravenous colloids, crystalloids, and blood products, an IV may also be used to administer medication and/or nutrition.  IV nutrition is known as parenteral nutrition (PN) or total parenteral nutrition (TPN).  PN and TPN are a complete form of nutrition typically administered through a central line, which is a long lasting IV line surgically implanted into the chest.  The line goes through a vein and directly into the heart. 

Almost always, intravenous fluids, blood products and IV nutrition are manufactured in a sterile environment, are sterilized before packaging in bags, are packaged inside of sterile bags, and are infused through sterile tubing and equipment.  Where there is a failure in the sterilization process, or contamination during, transport, compounding and/or administration, intravenous fluids can cause life-threatening infections and death.

The trial lawyers at Bottar Law, PLLC, have decades of experience investigating, prosecuting and trying to verdict medical malpractice and product liability cases for damages caused by intravenous fluid contamination. 

To discuss your case or concerns with an experienced New York medical malpractice and product liability attorney, contact us now at (315) 422-3466, (800) 336-LAWS, or by e-mail at