Visitor Question

Nerve damage from blood draw?

Submitted By: Marilynn (Paris, MI)

Approximately 1 month ago I sustained an injury during a routine blood draw. The technician hit the radial nerve in my left arm. Immediately, it felt like a bolt of electricity ran down my arm to my hand. Then it felt like it was on fire just above my wrist. I yelled and the technician removed the needle.

I asked what happened as I rubbed my arm. The technician casually replied that she had “hit the nerve.” She instructed me to just open and close my hand a few times and it should be fine. She then said that this happens because the veins are so close to the nerves.

I’m 63 and have had many, many blood draws in my life, and this has never happened to me before, nor to anyone I know. I went to my doctor and was prescribed pain medication (2 weeks after the incident) to take at night, as I would not be able to function if I took it during the day.

This means that I am in a great deal of pain – under my arm, above my wrist, a portion of my left hand, the thumb and index and middle finger. It’s like a toothache with random feelings of electrical jolts and/or skin being on fire.

My doctor could not tell me how long this could go on but estimated between 4-6 months.

Medical costs have been less than $200. Any idea what would be reasonable to ask for my pain and suffering? Obviously just multiplying the medical costs would not be adequate in this situation. Who is liable? Any perspective you can give would be helpful. Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Marilynn,

While your injury is unfortunate, there doesn’t seem to be any permanent damage. Moreover, your doctor didn’t prescribe any medical procedures which might be necessary to medically remedy the problem.

The company which employed the technician is the liable party. While they may empathize with your pain, it is unlikely they will admit an injury was caused by their technician, or agree to pay you any compensation for the injury. To do so would be an implied admission of wrongdoing.

This is not to say you shouldn’t make an effort to be compensated for your medical bills and pain and suffering. Just don’t be surprised when the company refuses to pay. It is unlikely you will find a personal injury attorney to accept your case. There just isn’t enough evidence supporting your claim, and more importantly, enough money in the case to make it worth an attorney’s time.

See if the company will pay you. If they refuse, you can sue them in small claims court. In the State of Michigan the small claims courts’ jurisdictional limits (the maximum amount you can sue for) is $5,000. You don’t need an attorney to file your case, the procedures are rather informal.

If you do decide to sue in small claims court, make sure you ask the court clerk to assist you in issuing a subpoena “duces tecum” for the company records related to the incident wherein your blood was drawn.

A subpoena duces tecum is a request for documents.

Hopefully the documentation will show the technician’s name, and any notations she may have made related to the incident, including the pain you suffered when the technician stuck the needle in an area which affected the nerve ending.

Learn more here: Medical Malpractice Claims & Lawsuits

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

Best of luck with your claim,

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21 thoughts on “Nerve damage from blood draw?

  1. Janice says:

    After reading the above stories, I wanted to add mine. My blood was drawn last week, November 13. My experience is so similar to the others. When the phlebotomist put the needle in, it was like an instantaneous fireball and burnt all the way to my wrist. I told her that I thought she hit a nerve and she said that maybe it could happen.

    The pain has continued, mainly at the point where the needle was put in. I am in despair as I read the above from others. Going on for months or longer is scary! I wonder if it could be some bad needles with perhaps dull points or very sharp points that can go so quickly that they hit the nerve.

    Nevertheless, there seems to be a cluster of these events in a 3-month time frame. Good luck everyone. My sincerest concern goes to each of you!

    I want to add that about 10 years ago, I had a similar event after surgery when I was injected for pain in my left thigh and it was numb for months. I went to a specialist and he said that it was peripheral neuropathy. After several months, it did go away.

  2. Lynn says:

    I had a blood draw that resulted in sharp electric pain from my wrist to the knuckles of the thumb and two adjacent fingers. When the needle was removed the area was numb. It started hurting about 24 hours later with pain and jolts in the area initially affected. It is getting worse. Has anyone had a recovery? I read in medline that many people recover in 2-6 months. Has anyone experienced that?

  3. Marion says:

    I had blood drawn yesterday. He seemed to be in a hurry and jabbed me in a nerve. Now I can’t straighten my arm or even cup my hand to wash my face! My husband was in the room and said the guy didn’t even try to slide the needle in he jabbed it. Didn’t even clean area as usual but dry cotton.

  4. Ronna says:

    This just happened to me last week. It seems to be getting worse each day and I get a burning in my wrist. Why not warnings, and why no recourse. This is crazy.

  5. Nancy says:

    Hello Anonymous. I have also left a couple of comments online. I read yours again and I am in the same situation. I was also referred to an Orthopedist and will have a nerve test on Monday. I couldn’t even get comfortable last night and today I really hurt, even with a brace and I have quite a few different ones I use. As time goes on it gets worse for me.

    I have to work and I type a lot. It has been hard getting into the office cause I can’t do my hair. I work from home most days. Still doesn’t help! I did get an email back from Quest saying they couldn’t reach me by phone. They were one number off. Didn’t hear back since. Let’s see what Monday holds for me.

  6. Shauna says:

    OMG! I thought I was the only one who experienced this. I went to the diabetes clinic and self advocated to the phlebotomist that it is difficult to get blood out of my arms above the wrist because of scar tissue. She was adamant to take a “look.” She felt and found one supposedly and while looking I said “butterfly needle in the back of the hand” she then says “girl give me that arm” and jabs the needle in deep.

    Immediately I felt an electric shock radiate down my arm to my pointer and thumb. I jerked afterwards and she saw the vein clotted immediately with no blood. She then felt defeated after she wanted to prove her point. She had to use the back of my hand with a butterfly after all! The P.A. was in the room the entire time watching and said nothing!!! I informed the PA my arm was burning and was pissed!

    That night my arm burned and ached I could barely sleep. Today (next day) I called the office close to 5pm in the hope to speak with the PA to complain and explain my arm pain. She is smart and never spoke or agreed to she was in the room. She brushed it off over the phone advising me to go to ER or call back tomorrow to see if an appointment is available. Oh, she said to try a warm compress and after a few days hopefully, it goes away…she should have said best of luck with that, as her tone showed no responsibility or care!

    BS…healthcare professionals don’t want to take the blame when that’s why they have insurance to cover them… accidents happen but it shouldn’t cost me! Now I work with children and couldn’t even teach comfortably due to the pain! It’s unfair and sad. I hope this goes away as I have to work at 39!

  7. Carolyn says:

    I am 48yrs old and I went in for a routine check up at my Rheumatologist. The lab technician did a blood draw that sent a painful electric shock down my arm to my left thumb. I immediately told her she hurt me and she didn’t seem very apologetic and continued to draw my blood.

    This has never happened to me before, just like others have said. I thought it would be okay and didn’t say anything to anyone else. Four days later it is still hurting and having a tingling, painful sensation in it. So I decided to call and make a complaint with the office manager and informed my Primary Care Physician, who told me to ice it. Haven’t heard from the Rheumatologist’s office yet. Not sure what else to do.

  8. Nancy says:

    I’m back. It has been almost 2 months since I had my blood drawn. I visited my primary about a week after and she said it would take time to heal. I get that. The pain has gotten worse. I get numbness every other day. I try a wrist support in order to get dressed, do my hair and work, it hasn’t been working very well lately.

    I contacted my primary yesterday, she has referred me to an orthopedic Dr. My appt is a little over a week away. I can’t take the pain, it also shorts up my arm to my shoulder. I don’t know what they will do to help the pain go away? I have to work, but I work on a computer everyday which doesn’t help any.

    I will keep you all informed of my progress.

  9. Jane says:

    Update to June 15, 2019 post. Going on 5 1/2 months now. I cannot trust that my right hand will perform as expected – as normal. There is severe pain, wrist to thumb if I attempt to fully utilize my hand. Over the last months, I have been compensating with my left hand and arm as much as possible, so the right hand/arm nerves have not been put to a full functional test.

    This looks to be a permanent injury which I doubt the orthopedist, to whom my primary physician referred me, will be able to resolve. The hospital has been completely unresponsive. There ARE culpable individuals involved here. Are they to have no penalties while I face what looks to be a permanent disability? It would seem so.

  10. Nancy says:

    I am 57 years old. I get an infusion every 4 weeks for Rheumatoid Arthritis. I went to get my annual blood drawn. The technician didn’t ask for my ID or insurance card. She then found the vein, rubbed with an alcohol pad and then boom, she jabs me like a lump of meat being put on a skewer.

    I told her it hurt and felt pain going down my arm. I never had it done like that before. My pain is still there, never left. I am going to my primary care doctor tomorrow to see what they have to say.

    I work at a computer all day and lift files, and now it hurts too much to lift the files. I just noticed a bruise on the inside of my middle finger, and never had that until after Saturday when I had my bloodwork done. There should be repercussions to the company as this seems to happen more often than not.

  11. Maryann says:

    I have a similar problem from getting blood work. Pain in my arm going on 7 months. Been on some medication that made me tired and woozy. Still have the pain keeps me awake at night. If I move certain ways get sharp burning pain from my shoulder to just below my wrist. Going to see if it’s nerve damage.Thought it would have gone away by now. It keeps me from doing a lot of things. Hope it gets better on its own and soon.

  12. Tina says:

    I had a routine blood draw Friday morning. I let the vampire know at insertion and told her to remove the needle immediately. I have extreme burning and shocking electrical pain in my forearm and wrist. No one ever let me know that such a thing could happen. They warn you about possible complications for everything else, why not in this instance?

    I would definitely not get blood drawn as often as my physician wants. My cholesterol is perfect, blood pressure perfect. I am a type 2 diabetic and use a monitor and diet to keep A1C in check. I will no longer submit to blood test every 6 months. It is Monday and I am out of work until Wednesday. I work with small children and don’t trust the strength of my hand and wrist. I am angry.

  13. Garry says:

    I’m 75 years old I2 and Light the cases above, I was having my blood drawn my doctor’s orders prior to an angiogram. I knew the young lady was inexperienced by the way she was acting.

    When she had the needle in my arm she kept moving the needle around trying to find the right vein and she hit the nerve, causing excruciating pain up and down my arm from the elbow to the wrist. Besides the nerve pain, I have these horrible shocking events.

    It’s been 3 weeks now and I thought it might go away but it has not and it sometimes pushes me to my knees it hurts so bad. That’s about it… pretty much like the ones above that I have read. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

  14. Jane says:

    I had a venipuncture two months ago done by an experienced, full R.N. at the ER, where I had gone due to unusual PVCs. It was night, so I thought it best to make certain there was no emergency. There wasn’t, but the blood draw was ordered.

    Every aspect of the procedure was improper, from the needless use of an IV catheter, to the extraordinary pain from the extremely tight tourniquet, to the position of my arm (R), to the angle with which the needle was inserted. I am an easy draw. I complained about every part of the pain, and the RN continued with the draw.

    At one point, she said she was going to flush the syringe, as apparently, there was backflow. Following the blood draw, my systolic blood pressure dropped 30mm Hg shortly after the draw. (I was not nervous at any point, until the bad draw and seeing my systolic pressure drop 30mm Hg). I alerted staff, and they were unconcerned, attributing the drop to white coat syndrome, which I do not have.

    The subsequent discoloration clearly marked the puncture site as being in error. There was no hematoma of the type. I have photographs.

    Five days later, I had tremendous pain in my R index finger, with a round, reddened area on the tip. This subsided after a couple of days. (I had notified the provider’s administrative office the day after of all that had occurred). Then, massive pain and tingling occurred from my bicep to the tips of all fingers with significant pain at the R wrist.

    I am fortunate. Never in my life have I been awoken from sleep due to pain, but this was now the case. I should state that there were short periods of time – 5, 15, 30 minutes – when the pain subsided somewhat, but it returned full-force.

    Towards the end of May, the intense pain and tingling subsided somewhat, leaving the (fluctuating) severe pain in my R wrist, and extreme pain when my R thumb is flexed.

    I had filed a complaint with another department at the hospital, and during that interview, the administrator stated that the procedure had been done improperly. I have no medical condition that would cause the symptoms and pain I am experiencing.

    I am angry, but more frightened that the injury is permanent, and I will never again have full use of my primary hand without pain, and worse, that there will be additional effects, given that the problems have been progressive. I will pursue this further.

    PS. I saw my primary care physician, subsequently. Gave all the details. She diagnosed “tendonitis.” There was no causal event for that diagnosis, but she works in the same system. I asked that she include my suspicions of venipuncture injury, along with her tendonitis diagnosis. What she will say at the next visit regarding the loss of non-painful use of my R hand due to the wrist and thumb involvement, will be, shall I say, “interesting.”

  15. Craig says:

    I had an injury from a blood draw. My arm will lock in a bent position and the pain I feel when I am trying to straiten it can almost take me to my knees. The doctors I have gone to say there is nothing medically can be done to fix the pain.

    This pain I would never wish upon anyone. I no longer donate blood (I have a rare blood type) and I struggle with just basic blood draws. I think there should be more of awareness of this injury hazard before blood is drawn.

  16. rose says:

    I had blood drawn 6 mos ago. It left my arm bruised and an actual hole is left in my arm like a vein collapsed. It hurts all the time.

  17. Debbie says:

    I had a blood test a few days ago and while the needle was in my arm I jerked a little and my arm went numb. She said she may have hit a nerve! My nerve going down the side of my arm hurts. I can’t see the doctor now for two weeks. I have no swelling or shocks, just pain in my arm and neck, and some tingling in my fingers.

  18. Eugenia says:

    It feels like electric shock when I reach down or hold my hand out. The center of of my hand hurts terribly. I have shoulder pain if I just reach out my hand and my arm hurts as well. I have pain medication that does not help. We’re discussing physical therapy but there’s no guarantee it will work. Right now I’m in severe pain.

  19. Marie D says:

    On May 2, 2017 I had my blood drawn at the Doctor’s office for routine blood test (results were fine, this was a waste of time). I had told the Doctor I didn’t want my blood drawn. She was “very” persistent, and I gave in. They used my strong right arm. It didn’t hurt until later that night.

    My strong right arm is now weak, and it aches all the time. I keep hoping it’ll get better. It’s now 12/19/17 and it’s the same. It’s hard to blow dry my hair. For the first time, I had to hire someone to paint my house. The aching and burning pain will not go away. I was 58 yrs old at the time. Now I”m 59. I want my strong arm back!!!!

  20. Anonymous says:

    I had pain from a blood draw on Dec. 25, 2015. I told her it hurt going in and when she took the needle out. It was not nerve pain as you described but bad pain where she drew the blood from.

    This is May 20, and my left arm still hurts. It no longer wakes me up at night (it did for months). It has gone from 8-9 to 3-4 just the last few weeks. I have swelling and tendonitis from it.

    My doctor poo-pooed it and my complaint fell on deaf ears. I was pissed!!!

    I begged for an MRI which showed inflammation. Saw a neurologist- no nerve damage. Saw an orthopedic dr. who said it was tendonitis. My arm never bruised, just hurt terribly. My dr. was insensitive to it, and I saw the specialists on my own.

    Still has not resolved. I should be compensated for pain and suffering, but probably won’t be.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I too am 63 and just had a blood draw that resulted in a sharp pain shooting up my arm from my elbow to my wrist. I thought it would go away in a couple of days but hasn’t. I called the Dr. and they can’t see me for 2 weeks.

    So I’m just wearing a wrist brace until then. Any ideas on how long this will last, will it go away and what can I do to help with the pain? It’s like being tazered at any moment. The electrical shock comes just from moving.

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