Posted by Terry Bryant Accident & Injury law on 08/27/2018

Common Birth Injuries due to Medical Malpractice

Common Birth Injuries due to Medical Malpractice

When a skilled medical professional fails to act with a reasonable standard of care or judgment, they may be considered negligent and can be held responsible for injury to your newborn. Birth injuries are traumatic for any family to bear, especially when the injury is preventable – as many birth injuries are. 

Injured newborns and their families also deserve compensation to pay bills for sizeable and ongoing medical, rehabilitation, special education, and other expenses. These costs can continue for decades, if not the rest of the infant victim’s life.

There are several differences between a birth defect and a birth injury. Birth defects are, by and large, unavoidable, while birth injuries are not. They are typically caused by external trauma to a baby before, during, or soon after birth.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a list of the most common types of birth injuries that are largely due to medical negligence. Negligence is a key concept, because it could potentially mean that the medical practitioner who caused the injury is responsible for paying legal damages to the victim(s) of their malpractice, because they violated their legal duty of care. These injuries include the following:

Brachial Palsy Injuries – which includes the related Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy. They occur when the bundle of nerves responsible for moving the arms and hands (brachial plexus) is injured. The most common reason for these injuries is shoulder dystocia – a condition which occurs when the infant’s shoulders are trapped by the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. Injury can occur when the doctor pulls too forcefully while attempting to deliver the baby and damages the brachial nerves.

Facial Paralysis – If too much pressure is placed on an infant’s face during delivery, it can result in damaged nerves. This type of injury is commonly associated with forceps or vacuum extraction to deliver the baby. Symptoms include the inability to close the [G1] affected eye and little if any movement or muscle control on the affected side of the face. Less severe paralysis can clear up within a few weeks. More serious cases involve greater, even total, paralysis on the affected side of the face.

Brain Injuries – When oxygen deprivation occurs during delivery, it can lead to a variety of problems. The most severe consequence of oxygen deprivation is a brain injury. When a newborn suffers from extended oxygen deprivation, a host of brain disorders may follow, including cerebral palsy and chronic seizures. Oxygen deprivation is usually the result of the failure of a physician or other member of the birthing team to correctly monitor events which lead to deprivation during birth or immediately after birth. This may occur due to umbilical cord issues like a prolapse (cord preceding the baby out of the uterus) or the baby's being allowed to remain too long in the birth canal. Experts suggest that even mild oxygen deprivation can lead to serious consequences, such as intellectual disabilities and long-term physical problems.

Fractures – The most common birthing fracture during delivery is to the clavicle (shoulder). It typically happens when the delivering physician pulls on the infant too hard during a breech (feet first) delivery or when the shoulder is pulled too hard or too long during a prolonged, normal delivery. In some cases, brachial nerve damage accompanies a shoulder fracture.

Caput succedaneumCaput succedaneum presents with intense swelling of the soft tissues in an infant’s scalp. It usually develops as infants move through the birth canal. Caput succedaneum is most commonly associated with improper use of a vacuum extraction tool. This swelling typically dissipates a few days after the injury, however;

Cephalohematoma – This condition can sometimes be associated with a Caput succedaneum injury. Its most prominent symptom is bleeding underneath the cranium, sometimes directly under one of the cranial bones. It typically appears several hours after birth as a raised bump at or near the top of the newborn’s head. The use of birth-assisting tools has been known to cause cephalohematoma. The bump [G2] typically clears up within a few months. But during this time, the baby is at elevated risk of jaundice, anemia, hypotension and, in rare cases, meningitis.[G3]

If your newborn exhibits symptoms of any of these birth-related injuries, monitor your baby carefully and contact your pediatrician if conditions warrant concern. It might also be a good idea to contact a birth injury lawyer who is familiar with these conditions. A skilled attorney can help you determine the validity of any explanations you might hear from your birthing doctor, birthing team, or other associated healthcare providers.

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