For patients on dialysis in the United States, the numbers are not reassuring. About 1 in 5 dialysis patients die every year in this country, and many of these deaths are preventable. Dialysis works by pumping a patient’s blood out of his or her body, clearing it of toxins and other waste products, and then returning the cleansed blood back into the body—doing the job the kidneys should be doing but can’t. One error that happens far more often than it should (and it should never happen) is the tube feeding the blood back into the body becoming dislodged, allowing the patient’s blood to spill out in enormous blood losses that can be fatal.
This is exactly what happened to retired bookkeeper Barbara Scott in Poughkeepsie, NY:
Partway through Scott's treatment on Dec. 28, 2005, the tube feeding blood back into her became dislodged. A temporary employee at her storefront clinic in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., hadn't taped the tube in place properly, and the facility didn't follow safety rules requiring the connection to remain visible, regulators later determined.
As Scott rested under a blanket, more than a quarter of her blood pooled beneath her and spilled onto the floor instead of flowing back into her system. She barely managed to call for help before losing consciousness. –Propublica.org
We also have a client whose needle was dislodged during dialysis due to medical error, resulting in injury. It’s unclear from the available studies exactly how many patients this has happened to. If you or someone you know has experienced a needle dislodging during dialysis, please comment below and let us know. These potentially deadly errors won’t be adequately prevented until people speak out.