Oklahoma Execution: What Causes A Blown Vein?

As a review begins of Oklahoma's execution procedures, some attention will almost certainly focus on what the attending physician saw when he looked at the intravenous line in Clayton Lockett's arm.

"So the doctor observed the line, and determined that the line had blown," said the director of the Department of Corrections.

"There's a lot of reasons why a vein can blow," said Dr. Steven Nussbaum, medical director of Ergent Care, breaking down just exactly how a vein can blow.

"Sometimes the medication is running too fast, and it can't, the vein can't handle the increased volume coming in and it causes the vein to expand and then an actual tear starts to leak fluid. Sometimes the veins are just fragile, and they can't tolerate any additional pressure," he said.

Veins can also have unpredictable turns, or the needle may have gone in one side of a vein and out the other. A whole host of possibilities, many of which do not mean operator error.

"An infiltrated or blown vein does not imply always that there was something wrong in the insertion of the IV," he said.

What's something he would advise as the protocols are reviewed?

"I would want to make really, really sure that they had a good stick, that the IV's good, that there's no issues with it, that it's flowing well," he said.

The search for answers, as the controversial topic of lethal injection goes under the microscope.

"I'm sure they'll do an autopsy and they'll have an opinion. I would assume they'll do an autopsy," he said.