Misplaced nasogastric (NG tube) and percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tubes can result in medical malpractice lawsuits because of the serious injuries and even death that result to patients. The Pennsylvania lawyers of Meyers Evans Lupetin & Unatin are well versed in handling such cases and feel it is important to discuss this ongoing threat to patient safety.
A nasogastric tube is a narrow tube passed into a patient’s stomach via the nose. NG tubes can be used for many reasons including short- or medium-term nutritional support, aspiration of stomach contents and decompression of intestinal obstruction.
There is evidence that as many as 500,000 nasogastric (NG) and percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tubes and suction tubes are misplaced each year, which result in severe injuries or death. Studies show between 2% and 4% of all tubes are misplaced. Misplaced tubes are typically misguided into patients’ lungs, which causes an array of injuries and premature death of patients.
The medical “standard of care” requires confirmation of proper NG tube placement in some manner. Medscape, a reliable medical resource, recommends that medical providers, “Verify proper placement of the NG tube by auscultating a rush of air over the stomach using the 60 mL Toomey syringe or by aspirating gastric content. The authors recommend always obtaining a chest radiograph in order to verify correct placement, especially if the NG tube is to be used for medication or food administration. Colorimetric capnography is another valid method for verifying NG tube positioning in mechanically ventilated patients.”
It is important to note that the antiquated “traditional” approach to confirming placement of using auscultation to confirm placement is notoriously unreliable and, therefore, does not satisfy the standard of care.
Confirming proper placement of a patient’s NG tube is simple and, when the proper steps are followed, results in reliable and safe medical care. When steps are skipped or the standard of care is ignored, however, patients can be severely hurt or killed. Numerous lawsuits have been successfully undertaken against healthcare providers and hospitals for failing to ensure proper placement of NG tubes resulting in serious injury or death.
In one instance a child was brought to a hospital due to ingestion of a toxic substance. In order to administer charcoal (which counteracts certain types of toxins) into the child’s stomach an NG tube was used. The emergency personnel inadvertently, however, inserted the tube into the child’s lung and never confirmed the proper location. Resultantly, charcoal was poured into the child’s lung resulting in death.
In Pennsylvania a large verdict was recently entered for the family of an 88-year-old man who was literally drowned to death over a nearly 12-hour period when a feeding tube was mistakenly placed into his left lung instead of his stomach. The tube’s placement, again, had never been properly confirmed.
The medical malpractice lawyers of Meyers Evans Lupetin & Unatin, are well versed in handling misplaced NG tube lawsuits.