Liability related to peripheral venous and arterial catheterization: a closed claims analysis

Anesth Analg. 2009 Jul;109(1):124-9. doi: 10.1213/ane.0b013e31818f87c8. Epub 2009 Apr 17.


Background: Serious complications after peripheral IV and arterial vascular cannulations have been reported. To assess liability associated with these peripheral vascular catheters for anesthesiologists, we reviewed claims in the American Society of Anesthesiologists Closed Claims database.

Methods: Claims related to peripheral vascular catheterization were categorized as related to IV or arterial catheters. Complications related to IV catheters were categorized as to type of complication. Patient and case characteristics, severity of injury, and payments were compared between claims related to IV catheters and all other (nonperipheral catheter) claims in the database. Payment amounts were adjusted to 2007-dollar amounts using the consumer price index.

Results: Claims related to peripheral vascular catheterization accounted for 2% of claims in the database (n = 140 of 6894 claims), most (91%) associated with IV catheters (n = 127). The most common complications were skin slough (28%), swelling/infection (17%), nerve damage (17%), fasciotomy scars (16%), and air embolism (8%). Approximately half of these complications (55%) occurred after extravasation of drugs or fluids. Compared with other claims, IV claims involved a larger proportion of cardiac surgery (25% vs 2% for other, P < 0.001) and smaller proportion of emergency procedures (8% vs 22% for other, P < 0.001). Claims related to arterial catheters were few (n = 13, 8%), with only seven associated with radial artery catheterization.

Conclusions: Claims related to IV catheters were an important source of liability for anesthesiologists, approximately half of which resulted from extravasation of drugs or fluid. Claims related to radial arterial catheterization were uncommon.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anesthesiology / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Catheterization, Peripheral / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insurance Claim Review / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Liability, Legal*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult