Susan Warby, 57, was mistakenly given a glucose rather than a saline drip at West Suffolk Hospital after an operation for a perforated bowel in July 2018. Staff noticed a rise in blood sugar concentrations but gave her insulin to lower them rather than check the drip, which remained in place for 36 hours.
In 2008 the National Patient Safety Agency made recommendations for safe arterial line management. In 2014 the Association of Anaesthetists published guidelines aimed specifically at preventing such events. Structured processes to prevent inadvertent use of a glucose-containing fluid to flush an arterial line and regular blood glucose sampling from a location other than the arterial line are only partial solutions. However, a survey of management of arterial lines undertaken in 2013 indicated that this was a common problem, that many of the NPSA recommendations were not widely implemented and that almost one third of respondents were aware of ‘wrong flush’ errors on their unit and a further third in other locations within their hospital.
In this Rapid Response in the BMJ, Tim Cook says now is the time for patient representatives, clinicians, regulators and industry to work together to achieve widespread implementation of an engineered solution to prevent arterial line errors.