Breathing Tube Mistakes in Nursing Homes – Is It a Lawsuit?

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on June 23, 2023 in Nursing Home Abuse
Updated on April 24, 2024

patient with breathing tube insertedBreathing tubes, when properly inserted and managed, may help to prolong the life of residents who struggle to breathe on their own due to various medical conditions. However, breathing tube mistakes can cause serious, even fatal harm.

PKSD discusses breathing tubes below, including how they are used in nursing homes and the types of injuries that may result from improper insertion, poor management and a failure to properly monitor intubated residents.

If your loved one in a nursing home was injured due to a breathing tube mistake, you may be eligible to seek compensation from that facility.

Contact our law offices to learn more about potential legal options. We offer a completely free consultation, and there are also no upfront costs or fees if you choose our firm to represent you.

Call to request your FREE case review today. 414-333-3333

What is a Breathing Tube?

A breathing tube (endotracheal tube) is a medical device used to provide air to residents who are unable to breathe, or fully breathe, on their own. This plastic tube is connected to a ventilator and inserted into the patient’s trachea. A guide is used to help keep the tube in place. Once inserted, the ventilator mechanically moves air in and out of the resident’s lungs.

When someone is intubated, they cannot speak, which can cause an elderly person, or anyone, to feel anxious. Being intubated is also uncomfortable, which is why someone with a breathing tube may also receive “twilight” anesthesia to help them relax and rest.

What Medical Conditions May Require the Use of a Breathing Tube?

Endotracheal tubes may be used for residents with certain medical conditions or for other reasons, such as for:

  • Keeping the airway open while continuing to provide general anesthesia, oxygen or medications.
  • Bypassing a portion of an airway that has become blocked
  • Supporting breathing for residents with COPD, emphysema, heart failure, pneumonia and other respiratory conditions.
  • Preventing fluid from getting into a resident’s lungs following a stroke, massive stomach bleeding or even an overdose

Nursing Home Problems That May Increase the Risk of Breathing Tube Mistakes

Inserting an endotracheal tube requires proper training. If the breathing tube is inserted incorrectly or without following proper sanitation procedures, the resident could suffer serious or fatal physical harm.

Unfortunately, nursing home staff may often receive inadequate training. Even when caregivers are properly trained to insert a breathing tube, injuries may still occur due to significant understaffing.

What Are Some Common Breathing Tube Mistakes in Nursing Homes?

Inadequate training and insufficient staffing may often lead to serious breathing tube errors, including:

  • Improperly inserted breathing tubes that become dislodged: Residents may suffer severe, permanent brain damage. Residents could also die from asphyxiation if the endotracheal tube disconnects and staff are not properly monitoring them.
  • Clogged breathing tubes: When tubes are not regularly monitored or cleaned, they could get clogged with food and make it difficult or impossible for a resident to breathe.
  • Infections may occur: Breathing tubes must be properly sanitized before being inserted. If proper sanitation procedures are not carefully followed when inserted or throughout the time a resident is intubated, serious infections, including sepsis, may result.
  • Bodily injury may occur: If not done properly, breathing tubes can damage various parts of the patient’s vocal cords, throat, trachea and other body parts during insertion.
  • Poor calibration of equipment/oxygen flow: If equipment is not properly calibrated and the pressure of oxygen is too intense, it can result in oxygen toxicity and damage the patient’s lungs.
  • Pneumothorax: Improper insertion of an endotracheal tube can also cause air to leak into the chest cavity surrounding the lungs, which can make breathing difficult for the patient.

Can Nursing Homes Be Held Liable for Breathing Tube Mistakes That Injure a Resident?

If a resident is injured or dies from a breathing tube error at his or her nursing home, you may be able to hold them liable for the resulting damages.

However, these cases are complicated and the burden of proof falls on the victim, or his or her family. Having a knowledgeable and experienced attorney manage your case can greatly benefit you.

Your attorney will need to prove there was negligence on the part of the nursing home and how that negligence directly led to the injury or death of your loved one.

For instance, your attorney may discover and prove the injury occurred due to:

  • Failure to adhere to federal staffing levels: Unfortunately, understaffing is far too common in nursing homes today. Staffing shortages can lead to many types of resident injuries, including making mistakes and not properly monitoring an intubated resident.
  • Failure to follow proper sanitation procedures: Nursing facilities are required to train staff on how to properly sanitize medical equipment and devices to reduce the risk of infections, including sepsis, which is often life-threatening.
  • Improper insertion of the tube: There are steps medical staff need to take to ensure a breathing tube is properly inserted and secured, such as listening for abnormal breathing sounds and looking to see if there is a lack of tube fogging or erratic chest movement. Staff should also get a chest X-ray or ultrasound to ensure that the breathing tube is properly positioned.
  • Failure to monitor the resident once intubated: Nursing staff should regularly check on a resident who is intubated. Tubes can become clogged with mucus, food or other debris, making it harder for an intubated resident to breathe.
  • Improper extubation or unplanned extubation: Breathing tubes need to be as carefully removed as when they are inserted. When breathing tubes become dislodged or disconnected, it can cause severe injury. Patients struggling to breathe can be dead in minutes without immediate medical assistance. Unfortunately, an unplanned extubation is often fatal.

How Can You Prove Negligence Is the Reason for the Breathing Tube Injury?

It is very difficult to prove a breathing tube injury is caused by nursing home negligence, especially if you did not observe the negligent actions as they took place. This is why hiring an attorney is an important step in holding a nursing home accountable for its actions.

The first step if you suspect negligence occurred and led to the breathing tube error that caused the serious or fatal injury of your loved one is to talk to an attorney. He or she will work with you to gather the evidence needed to build a case. Sometimes, family members may have evidence of substandard medical care without even realizing it. For instance, if you were there while your loved one was being fed and saw the staff not taking time to flush your loved one’s feeding tubes. Another situation might be that you were there when the tube became clogged, but staff did not immediately respond.

These are just some of the details your attorney will discuss with you to determine if you may have legal options.

Contact PKSD to Learn More About Your Legal Options

At PKSD, we have been representing victims of nursing home abuse and neglect for decades, and we know how to gather evidence that builds a strong case. Our experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys in Wisconsin have recovered millions in compensation for our clients. These results include a $2 million settlement for a victim of nursing home understaffing.

Not sure if you have a valid case? This is very common in nursing home neglect cases. Contact our law offices to discuss your situation today. We are prepared to help and you can learn about your legal options at no cost or risk to you.

Millions recovered for our clients. 414-333-3333

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