Birth Injuries, Including Cerebral Palsy Resulting from Medical Malpractice

A birth injury is one of the most stressful and frightening events that can happen to a family. There are two main types of injuries that can happen during the birthing process; injuries from a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain and injuries from trauma. Both types of injuries can result in life-long disabilities for the baby. If these injuries could have been prevented, then the family may have a medical malpractice claim.

Birth asphyxia or hypoxia occurs when a baby does not receive an adequate supply of oxygen before birth, during birth, or immediately following delivery. The amount of damage caused to the baby depends on how severe the asphyxia is, how long it lasts, and how soon proper treatment can be provided.

Some causes of birth asphyxia include:

  • Problems with the placenta separating from the uterus too early
  • Improper blood pressure with the mother, including pregnancy induced hypertension / PIH or preeclampsia
  • Problems with the umbilical cord during delivery
  • Insufficient oxygen in the mother’s blood before or during child birth

Trauma injuries can happen as the result of a doctor’s improper use of a vacuum or forceps when attempting to help the baby’s head exit the birth canal during a difficult delivery.

The fetal heart rate monitor is a device that monitors the heart rate of the baby and the strength and duration of the contractions in the uterus of the mother. If the infant does not have a proper heart rate, the fetal heart rate monitor can alert the medical staff of the problem. If the doctor or nurse fails to take prompt and appropriate action, the baby can suffer a serious and permanent brain injury or even die. If the doctor has a reason to believe that the infant may be harmed by allowing a vaginal birth to proceed, a cesarean section may be required.

One of the most serious birth injuries that can occur to a newborn is cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy refers to a motor coordination problem due to an injury to the brain, which controls both voluntary movement and coordination, and the condition can range from mild to severe. Cerebral palsy may be caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain, trauma injury, delivery mistakes, premature delivery, and certain infections.

Medical malpractice can result in other types of birth injuries as well, including kernicterus, Erbs palsy, and developmental delays. Kernicterus is a rare type of brain damage that occurs in a newborn with severe jaundice. Kernicterus occurs when a substance in the blood, bilirubin, builds up to excessively high levels and spreads to the brain tissues. Permanent injuries resulting from kernicterus include hearing loss or deafness, movement difficulties, learning disabilities, developmental delays, and problems with the eyes.

Erbs palsy is a condition caused by injury to the brachial plexus, which is a group of nerves extending through the neck, armpit area and the arm. If the infant is unable to exit the birth canal naturally, the doctor may need to assist the delivery with a vacuum device or forceps. If the doctor applies too much force twisting and turning the baby’s head and damages the brachial plexus nerves, it can cause paralysis to the face, hand, or arm. In addition to the care a doctor must take when using these instruments to assist with a difficult delivery, the doctor may also need to consider a C-section as an alternative for a difficult delivery.

Developmental delay, which used to be referred to as mental retardation, is a term that applies to children who do not reach developmental milestones that most children achieve by a certain age. Although every child reaches these milestones at a slightly different age, if a child is significantly slower in achieving these milestones or not achieving them at all, this is categorized as a developmental delay. Developmental delays, which can be caused by brain damage resulting from a birth injury, include a significant delay in achieving such tasks as crawling, walking, talking, thinking, or learning.

To find out more information about birth injuries from medical malpractice or to view informative videos about birth injury, cerebral palsy, or kernicterus, please visit http://www.fagellaw.com

If you believe your child suffered a serious birth injury due to medical negligence, you should contact a medical malpractice attorney who specializes in birth injuries, such as Dr. Bruce Fagel, for a free consultation. The toll free number is (800) 541-9376. Dr. Fagel is an experienced medical malpractice lawyer and a licensed medical doctor. Dr. Fagel understands exactly how the birth process should proceed and where medical malpractice occurred in a birth injury

How Hyperbilirubinemia and Medical Malpractice can be Responsible for Kernicterus in Newborn Babies

Kernicterus is a rare form of brain damage that occurs in some newly born infants with severe jaundice.  Jaundice is a yellow coloring of the skin, eyes or other tissue.  Kernicterus can occur from elevated levels of bilirubin which move from the blood into the brain tissues where it causes brain damage to the baby.

Bilirubin is a substance that is formed when the liver breaks down and removes old red blood cells that can be removed from the body in the stool. A minor increase in bilirubin levels is usually not a problem.  In fact, nearly half of all newborn infants have an increase in their bilirubin levels, due to the fact that their liver is not yet mature enough to break down the excess red blood cells they were born with. However, a significant increase in bilirubin or hyperbilirubinemia can lead to serious injuries to the baby including brain damage or kernicterus, hearing loss or deafness, eye problems, developmental disabilities, and even death.  When bilirubin levels are increased, jaundice may occur.

It is important to understand that kernicterus can be prevented.  If a newborn baby develops jaundice, they should be closely monitored.  With feedings every two to three hours, mild jaundice will usually go away on its own after a few days.  High bilirubin levels will require the baby be treated with phototherapy or a blood transfusion to reduce the bilirubin levels.  If hyperbilirubinemia has lead to kernicterus, then the brain damage is already happening.  It is critical that parents pay attention for these signs and seek medical attention immediately for the baby before additional brain damage occurs.

Kernicterus warning signs:

  • The baby is excessively sleepy or lethargic
  • It is difficult to awaken the baby.  Once awake, the baby can’t stay awake
  • The baby has a high pitched cry that sounds abnormal
  • The baby does not startle from sudden movements or touching
  • The baby has poor muscle tone, an arched back with the neck being hyper-extended backwards or unusual muscle flexing
  • The baby suffers from seizures or has a fever

If kernicterus has developed, there are treatments available to help the child better cope with the condition, including physical therapy, speech therapy, and special education.

For more information about kernicterus and how medical malpractice may be responsible, contact the Law Offices of Dr. Bruce G. Fagel & Associates at (800) 541-9376.  Visit Kernicterus Video for an informative video featuring Dr. Fagel.