Birth Injuries in Virginia
Birth injuries in Virginia are one of the leading causes of medical malpractice lawsuits against hospitals and other medical providers. The birth of a child is a very stressful time. Although childbirth in the United States is a much safer process than a century ago things can and do go wrong.
There are many types of birth injury. While birth injuries can be temporary, they may also be permanent and last a lifetime.
Birth injuries are not always apparent from the outset. The severity of the symptoms will vary from child to child. On occasions, a birth injury may not become apparent until a child is enrolled in a school and starts to demonstrate developmental difficulties.
When a child suffers from a birth injury, the parents may have grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a hospital. It is often a challenge finding out what really happened in the delivery room. An experienced Virginia birth injury lawyer can investigate the circumstances and hold medical professionals to account.
Types of Birth Injury Associated with Medical Negligence
Brachial Plexus Injuries (BPI)
Infants who suffer brachial plexus injuries suffer from damage to a bundle of nerves that start in the upper spine and are connected to the shoulder, neck, arm, and hand.
Damage to these nerves ranges from mild and temporary to severe and permanent. One in 10 cases leaves the child with a permanent disability.
This injury ranges from neuropraxia - stretching of the nerve – in its mildest form to neuroma a condition entailing a tear to the nerve that does not heal.
At its most serious, brachial plexus causes an avulsion in which the nerve roots are totally dislodged from the spine, creating complete paralysis in the child.
Erb’s palsy is a common type of brachial plexus which affects the nerves of the baby’s upper arm usually after a birth injury. Infants who suffer from Erb’s palsy may experience a loss of feeling and weakness in the affected areas. In severe cases, infants may be afflicted with total paralysis of the affected arm.
Klumpke’s palsy is another form of brachial plexus. A birth injury can damage the lower nerves in the infant’s arm, affecting the wrists, arms, and fingers. Often an infant diagnosed with Klumpke’s palsy suffers total paralysis of the affected area. The hand usually takes on a permanent, claw-like shape.
Shoulder dystocia is rare, occurring in about 1 percent of pregnancies. Complications can be extremely severe. Shoulder dystocia occurs when the infant’s head and shoulders become trapped behind the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. This is an extremely dangerous birth injury. The mother may face hemorrhaging and uterine rupture. The baby can suffer breathing difficulties, a collarbone fracture, cerebral palsy, a brachial plexus fracture, and death in some circumstances.
Brain-Related Birth Injuries
Birth injuries related to a child’s brain can be very serious and fatal. They are often caused by oxygen deprivation and include anoxia, hypoxia, birth asphyxia, and perinatal asphyxia.
A reduction of the oxygen supply to the infant’s brain may cause Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), a brain dysfunction caused by the deprivation of oxygen to the brain and other organs.
When a brain is deprived of oxygen, it can react in many different ways. Brain ischemia occurs when the brain suffers oxygen depletion. It reacts by draining the blood from the brain. Excessive blood to the brain can cause a brain hemorrhage.
Other infections such as jaundice, Group B strep infection, or meningitis can cause a brain injury by disrupting the electrical communications between the spine and the brain.
Cerebral palsy is the most common birth injury that affects the brain of the infant.
Cerebral palsy can be caused by a brain malfunction in the fetus. Medical malpractice during the delivery is another significant cause.
Serious medical errors at birth include leaving a baby in the birth canal for too long, the failure to recognize or treat seizures, a doctor or midwife’s failure to detect a prolapsed cord, and improper use of forceps or vacuum extraction during the delivery. A failure to treat a maternal infection can also lead to cerebral palsy.
Group B strep infections or meningitis can be carried in the woman’s vagina without her realizing it. As many as a quarter of all women harbor these infections.
Children can catch these infections in their passage through the birth canal where these infections are stored. Anemia, folic acid deficiencies, and spina bifida can develop during pregnancy. Although these birth injuries are not caused by medical malpractice, doctors are responsible for testing for them and taking action if they are diagnosed.
Medical professionals should also be looking out for symptoms of meconium aspiration syndrome, a condition in which the infant breathes meconium from his or her defecation in the uterus, causing breathing problems.
Injuries Associated with Delivery
Often birth injuries are directly linked to mistakes and missteps in the delivery room. Tools invented to make a delivery easier like forceps or a vacuum extractor can lead to fractures in an infant’s soft skull, lacerations or broken bones.
An infant may also suffer stress or hypertension from a clumsy or protracted birth.
Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn
Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) is often linked to drugs given to the mother during childbirth. This condition is defined as the failure of the normal circulatory transition after birth. The syndrome is characterized by marked pulmonary hypertension. PPHN is often the result of medical negligence.
Certain drugs such as Zoloft, Celexa, and Paxil cause a spike in blood pressure during childbirth and can place stress on the infant.
Medical Malpractice Claims Arising from Birth Injuries
Doctors and hospitals can be sued over birth injuries for a number of reasons including:
· Improper use of birth-assisting tools like forceps;
· Failing to treat fetal distress in a timely manner;
· Delaying or failing to perform an emergency cesarean section (C-section);
· Failure to prevent preeclampsia;
· Failing to monitor and control oxygen intake causing brain injuries;
· Improper administration of medication;
· Failure to treat and diagnose maternal diabetes;
· Failure to diagnose maternal infections like Group B strep.
Contact a Lawyer over Birth Injuries in Virginia
The Smith Law Center has been helping the injured since 1949 and has secured more than $1 billion in verdicts and settlements. We file medical malpractice suits against doctors and hospitals that have harmed mothers and caused birth defects in babies. Please call us at 757.244.7000.