What would you say to someone who told you that having a blood test could cause a major and debilitating injury? Most people don’t realize that the smallest invasion of the body, such as a needle stick for a blood draw, can have a whole panoply of dangers associated. Nerve and other injuries from negligent blood draws are sufficiently prevalent that a new area of specialty practice in arm surgery has developed to treat these cases.
According to an article in the New York Times on June 5, 2006, there are no studies showing how often patients are hurt during routine blood draws, but a 1996 study of blood donors (a larger needle is used in blood donation than in routine venipuncture) found that 1 in 6,300 donors suffered a nerve injury.
Phlebotomy-related injuries have become common enough in recent years that there are now specialists who make a living teaching health care providers how to avoid lawsuits provoked by the procedure.
Dennis Ernst, director of the Center for Phlebotomy Education, says the risks of the procedure include nerve injuries and chronic pain syndromes that can render you disabled for life. He likes to warn patients that some technicians have only a weekend of training — practicing on a dummy arm on Saturday and sticking your vein on Monday.