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Austin Medical Malpractice Blog

Birth injuries and how to prevent them

Medical malpractice lawsuits can be filed in Texas and around the country when mistakes made by doctors or hospitals resulted in birth injuries. These are injuries babies suffer while being born that impair their bodies or bodily functions. Birth injuries are usually caused by mechanical forces that babies are subjected to during childbirth, and they range from mild medical problems that can usually be addressed with prompt treatment to major issues that may threaten an infant's life or leave them permanently disabled.

When babies are born with medical problems, a thorough physical examination should be performed to determine if the issue was caused by a congenital defect or a birth injury. When birth injuries are identified, intensive medical interventions may not always be necessary. Babies are far more resilient than they seem, and brachial plexus and soft tissue injuries often heal completely within a few weeks. However, subgaleal or intracranial hemorrhages and spinal cord injuries could be life-threatening to newborns.

What to do when doctors fail to diagnose preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a hypertensive disorder that expectant mothers can develop. Besides seeing a rise in blood pressure, mothers may damage their liver, kidneys or other organs, suffer seizure or stroke, and even die. Doctors can diagnose the condition and monitor throughout the pregnancy cycle, but there have been cases in Texas and elsewhere in which doctors failed to diagnose it. Such cases may lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Hypertensive disorders are one of the leading causes of maternal and infant illness and death in the whole world. Preeclampsia can develop most especially in women who are under 20 or over 40 at the time of pregnancy, women with twins or triplets, and women going through their first pregnancy. Obesity, a family history of preeclampsia and a history of chronic high blood pressure and other conditions can raise the risk for it.

New study may help in addressing brain damage in premature babies

Every year in Texas and across the U.S., approximately 15 million babies are born prematurely, or before 37 weeks. Of those, around 9 million are left with injuries to the brain that could result in lifelong conditions like epilepsy and cerebral palsy. These brain injuries are often caused by overactive immune cells called microglia.

Normally, microglia play a positive role in developing a baby's brain. However, at the presence of inflammation, be it caused by maternal infection or an infection of the fetal membranes, they can damage the white matter of the brain. The neurons are thus less insulated, and this leads to weak connectivity in the brain.

Distinguishing between birth injuries and defects

Parents always hope for a safe pregnancy and birthing process. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

In some instances, certain birth incidents result in preventable birth injuries. On the other hand, sometimes a child may experience birth defects. It is important to be able to distinguish between the two.

Damages to be capped at $50 million in birth injury case

The damages awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits in Texas and around the country sometimes run into the tens of millions of dollars when the victim is a child that will require around-the-clock medical care for the rest of their life. This was the situation presented to an Illinois jury in a case involving a boy who was born with severe brain damage in 2014. Thye jury responded by awarding $101 million in damages after determining that the Chicago hospital where the child was born acted negligently.

The boy's mother told the jury that she could not feel her baby moving. The hospital did not pay attention to her pleas and also ignored ultrasound images taken during her six hours of labor that showed the unborn child was not moving. The boy was born so badly injured that he cannot speak or walk and requires assistance just to sit up. Experts at the medical malpractice trail testified that the child would have been born healthy if doctors had ordered a caesarian section.

How ultrasounds find ectopic pregnancies

An ectopic pregnancy, otherwise known as a tubal pregnancy, can be a life-threatening health risk for mother if the problem is not caught in time. Many of these types of pregnancies in Texas aren't diagnosed until the mother goes to the emergency room, but ultrasounds can be used to detect the problem earlier. Early symptoms of the problem can include bleeding or cramping although these symptoms can also occur in normal pregnancies.

One way to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy is to measure the hCG levels. In a normal pregnancy, doctors would expect hCG to double every two to three days. If the levels are rising slower than this rate, there may be an issue. Slowly rising hCG levels on their own, however, do not automatically indicate an ectopic pregnancy, so other tests will need to be conducted.

Benefits and risks of delayed cord clamping

There are many expectant mothers in Texas who are curious about the process called delayed cord clamping. With DCC, the doctor clamps the umbilical cord 25 seconds to five minutes after delivery to allow more blood to travel from the placenta to the newborn. More blood means more iron, which is essential for healthy brain development.

DCC is a practice in accord with the World Health Organization's recommendation that cord clamping never be done earlier than is necessary. However, this recommendation cannot be said to apply to all births. Currently, DCC is practiced mostly on pre-term infants since the extra blood benefits them the most. In fact, the baby's blood volume can be increased by as much as one third. However, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, among other organizations, does not recommend DCC for full-term infants.

Cerebral palsy and its risk factors

Many children in Texas suffer from neurological disorders that go under the name of cerebral palsy. There is no single cause of CP, but babies who meet certain criteria will run a higher risk for it. One criterion is low birth weight: i.e., less than 5.5 pounds at birth. Another is premature birth: i.e., before 37 weeks, and especially before 32 weeks. CP can also develop in multiple births where one of the multiples during or shortly after childbirth.

CP is not preventable, but if mothers remain in good health, seek medical attention as soon as problems arise and begin regular prenatal care early on in their pregnancy, they will reduce the risk for it. Babies who are not vaccinated are at a greater risk for CP, and the same holds for mothers. They should consider getting vaccinated for chickenpox, rubella, influenza and other diseases.

Periventricular leukomalacia: what it is

Expectant mothers in Texas should be aware of the most common type of brain injury that occurs among premature infants: periventricular leukomalacia. It is a condition where the periventricular white matter, located around the sides and top of the brain, is damaged.

The damage leads to cell death and the building up of fluid in those areas where the dead cells have broken down. These cells are supposed to control various physical and mental actions, and the connection that the white matter has to both brain and spinal cord allows the body to move smoothly. PVL can result in mental and physical impairment, including language disabilities, hearing disorders, strabismus and spasticity.

Birth injuries mothers may suffer

When you think about birth injuries, you probably think immediately of a newborn. In Texas, the occurrence of newborn injuries during labor and delivery continues at a steady pace.

However, what about the mother? The focus is almost always on the baby, but mothers can also suffer traumatic and devastating injuries during labor and, more commonly, delivery. Take a look at some of the injuries women sustain while giving birth and the contributing risk factors.

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