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Austin Medical Malpractice Blog

Insufficient oxygen and other causes of infant brain damage

Infant brain damage frequently occurs during the delivery process, but it can also happen during pregnancy or after birth. 

Lack of oxygen may be the cause of infant brain damage, but other issues are equally critical. With proper medical care, however, infant brain damage may often be prevented.

Birth injuries often caused by medical mistakes

Labor and childbirth can be a challenging time for many Texas mothers and children, especially if medical mistakes are involved. Even though doctors and other healthcare professionals are well-informed about the need for supportive, efficient and up-to-date treatment for issues during the prenatal period, childbirth and immediately thereafter, medical mistakes happen all too frequently. This is a particularly vulnerable time for both mother and child, and serious birth injuries can result when something goes wrong.

There are relatively mild birth injuries that babies may experience; these can include bruises, broken bones or other relatively minor injuries due to forceps, lacerations or vacuum extractions. While these can be painful and indeed traumatic to the child and his or her parents, their effects are likely to be shorter-term and will not persist during a child's life. Some more severe injuries during childbirth may not be immediately apparent, especially when a child's brain is injured due to a lack of oxygen. Some effects are immediately apparent, such as blue skin tone, difficulty breathing, bulges in the head, vomiting or an inability to cry.

Facial paralysis may be caused by delivery trauma

Facial nerve palsy in children may be acquired or congenital. When the condition is acquired, it can arise due to inflammatory, infective, neoplastic, iatrogenic or traumatic causes. If it is congenital, it might be the result of malformative disease, genetic disease or trauma during delivery. In between 40 and 75 percent of cases, the cause is idiopathic. Parents in Texas whose children suffered injuries during birth may have claims for damages. Birth injuries can lead to facial nerve palsy or other conditions.

If the etiology of the condition is unknown, which is roughly 50 percent of cases, it is classified as Bell's palsy, named after the doctor who first described the weakness of the facial nerves in 1821. Approximately 70 percent of Bell's palsy cases have good prognoses, with the condition resolving itself within three months.

Reasons for and against vacuum-assisted delivery

Expectant mothers in Texas should know about vacuum extraction and how it may be utilized during delivery. Also known as vacuum-assisted delivery, it occurs during the second stage of labor when the mother is pushing. A health care provider takes a vacuum with a soft or rigid cup on the front and guides the child out of the birth canal with it.

Vacuum extraction is meant for mothers who are going through prolonged labor or have a medical condition that limits the amount of time they can push. A vacuum could also be used if changes in the baby's heartbeat suggest the need for immediate delivery. First, the mother's labor must meet certain criteria: a fully dilated cervix, ruptured membranes and a baby who has descended the birth canal head first.

How Klumpke's palsy can affect infants

Expecting parents in Texas should be aware of Klumpke's palsy. This is a form of paralysis that results from injuries to the lower brachial plexus, which is an array of nerves that are located in the neck and control arm movement. Infants who have this type of palsy will experience weakness and a lack of motion in their hands and forearms.

The likelihood of Klumpke's paralysis is low. In fact, only two to four infants out of 1,000 will develop the condition. It is not unusual for children with Klumpke's paralysis to make a full recovery, as the majority of patients with the condition have a neuropraxia injury. For patients whose injury is more grave, they may exhibit symptoms for a longer time and have lifelong disabilities.

How doctors should diagnose and prevent cerebral palsy

There are few scenarios more tragic than realizing a child has a disorder that a health care provider could have prevented. This is the reality that many parents face, though, when their child receives a cerebral palsy diagnosis. When symptoms such as underdeveloped motor skills, difficulties communicating and overactive reflexes appear, cerebral palsy may be to blame. 

This disorder is not genetic, but rather, it is often caused by a brain injury. Doctors and medical professionals should do their part in preventing this disorder, but too often, they are actually the cause. Here are some ways doctors may reduce the risk of cerebral palsy. 

Caput succedaneum: its causes and symptoms

Caput succedaneum is a birth injury characterized by the swelling of a newborn baby's scalp, usually in the form of a lump or bump. While the condition is harmless, goes away after several days and has no long-term effects, it may increase the risk for infant jaundice, so parents in Texas will want to know more about the condition.

Caput succedaneum is caused by prolonged pressure, either from the dilated cervix or vaginal walls, on the infant's head during delivery. Long and difficult deliveries as well as deliveries that require the use of vacuum suction or forceps increases a newborn's risk for developing the condition. The pelvic bones may put pressure on the baby if the amniotic sac has little fluid, or the sac's membranes rupture early in labor. This means the swelling could develop before labor and be detected via ultrasound.

Cephalohematoma: causes, symptoms and diagnosis

Cephalohematoma is a condition that affects 1 to 2 percent of all babies during or after birth, so expectant mothers in Texas should know more about it. CH arises when an injury during labor or delivery damages some blood vessels and causes blood to pool between a baby's scalp and skull.

For example, the infant's head may hit against the mother's pelvis and cause the blood vessels to rupture. Birth-assisting devices like forceps and vacuums also heighten the risk for CH. A small birth canal, weak uterine contractions and the abnormal position of the baby can increase labor time and complicate delivery. This will also make the development of CH more likely.

Polyhydramnios: symptoms and causes

Polyhydramnios is a condition where excess amniotic fluid builds up in the uterus during pregnancy. Texas women should know that though it occurs in one percent of pregnancies and is usually harmless, it can lead to serious complications like pre-term labor and premature births. It could also lead to the placenta separating from the uterus wall before birth -- a condition called placental abruption.

Mild polyhydramnios usually does not exhibit symptoms. When it is moderate or severe, however, it could result in breathing problems, constipation or heartburn; experiencing a swelling in the vulva and lower extremities; and feeling huge or tight in the belly. Other symptoms, such as an enlarged uterus, can only be detected by the doctor. Another possible sign is if the doctor cannot feel the baby or hear a heartbeat.

Uterine rupture: what it is and how it's treated

Uterine rupture is a serious complication that all expectant mothers in Texas should be aware of. It is rare, affecting less than 1 percent of pregnancies, and usually occurs in women with uterine scars from past cesarean sections and other uterine surgeries. In a uterine rupture, the baby can slip into the mother's abdomen, causing severe bleeding in the mother and suffocation in the baby.

As it affects only vaginal births, it is prevented with a C-section. At the same time, every C-section increases the risk for uterine rupture. This is cause for concern as one in three women in the U.S. either chooses to undergo, or must undergo, a cesarean delivery.

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