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Austin Medical Malpractice Blog

How does preeclampsia affect your baby?

Every year, an average of 7 percent of pregnant women will develop preeclampsia. The term may seem familiar, but what the disorder means may not.

Preeclampsia is a condition that occurs at any time during pregnancy. The most common symptoms include high blood pressure, swelling of the hands and feet and high protein. The disorder can have catastrophic consequences for mother and baby. Take a closer look at what may happen to your baby when you suffer from preeclampsia.

Understanding fetal lacerations

Studies show that between 1.5 and 6 percent of all births performed by cesarean section in Texas and across the U.S. result in fetal lacerations. Most birth injuries of this type are minor, but some are severe enough to require surgical repair.

Fetal lacerations typically occur when doctors use improper procedures or techniques during C-sections and inadvertently cut the baby with forceps, scalpels or other instruments. A study by the Patient Safety Authority, or PSA, found that between 1.5 percent and 1.9 percent of babies delivered by C-section suffered lacerations, but other studies have placed the percentage as high as 6 percent. Meanwhile, a National Institutes of Health study found that at least 3 percent of all C-section births result in fetal lacerations. Depending on the severity of the injury, doctors will often treat the affected tissue with topical adhesives, sutures and oral antibiotics. However, severe cases may require corrective surgery.

What to know about Horner's Syndrome

About 1.42 people per 100,000 under the age of 19 will experience Horner's Syndrome. It impacts the nerve pathway between the brain and the side of the face that is impacted by it. Of those who have Horner's Syndrome in Texas and throughout America, about 1 in 6,250 will develop the condition at birth. There are many different signs that a person has this condition. For instance, the pupils in each eye may be a different size.

The iris of each eye may be a different color in a person who has Horner's Syndrome. Furthermore, the eye that is impacted by the condition may have a droopy eyelid or appear to be bloodshot. Those who have this syndrome may display one or two symptoms or all possible symptoms that come with it. Once the condition is diagnosed, there are many different ways that it can be cured.

The threat of neonatal strokes

Expectant parents in Texas should be aware that newborn infants and elderly people have the same likelihood of having a stroke. Parents-to-be should know about the frequency of neonatal strokes, the causes of the condition and what symptoms to be aware of.

The National Institutes of Health define a neonatal stroke as a condition that takes place when the blood supply of an infant is disturbed in some manner within 28 days of birth. When infants experience a stroke within the first week of their lives, they are said to have had a perinatal stroke.

Malpractice case ruling reversed by Texas Supreme Court

On Dec. 21, the Texas Supreme Court reversed the decision of a lower court to award damages to the parents of an infant who suffered injuries while receiving emergency medical care from a hospital. The reason for this decision, according to the court opinion, was that the parents were unable to prove "willful and wanton negligence" by the hospital staff. The parents originally sued the hospital under provisions established by the Texas Medical Liability Act.

In the court's decision, one of the justices stated that the only reasonable interpretation of Texas law required evidence of willful negligence. They also stated that the litigants' interpretation of the law was irrelevant. The baby in this case, who was born in 2011, was hurt during the birthing process. The injury occurred when a doctor and nurse re-positioned the baby after discovering there was difficulty moving through the birth canal.

An overview of shoulder dystocia

Expectant mothers in Texas should be aware of the different kinds of complications that are possible during delivery. One of these is called shoulder dystocia (dystocia means a slow or difficult birth). What happens is that the baby's shoulders become stuck inside the mother's body. While most babies can still be born safely this way, others may be injured.

Potential side-effects include nerve injuries in the shoulders, arms and hands, leading to temporary shaking or paralysis. It normally goes away after 6 to 12 months. The baby could also be a victim to brain damage or death through lack of oxygen; however, this is rare. The mother may suffer bleeding and tearing of the uterus.

Know the risk factors for cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a disease that results when the brain does not develop properly. New research sheds some light on the possible reasons some children get the disease and others do not. Until recently, most experts thought CP developed during birth when oxygen to the baby gets restricted. Now, however, more doctors have discovered CP can occur before, during and after birth.

Most cases of CP get the classification of congenital. What risk factors do these congenital CP cases have in common?

Birth injury lawsuits rise, settlements grow higher

Between 2000 and 2006, there was at least a 20 percent decrease in the number of avoidable birth injuries in Texas and across the U.S, according to the Healthcare Research and Quality Agency. The CDC recorded 23,161 infant deaths in 2016, but birth injuries were not as prominent a factor in them as congenital issues, low birth weights, premature delivery and sudden infant death syndrome.

Despite the decrease in the number of birth injuries, recent years are not only seeing more birth injury cases but also higher figures for the settlements. Whereas some birth injury cases end in a settlement of around $50,000 to $100,000, others head into multi-million dollar territory. For example, an obstetrician was ordered to pay $3 million to the family of a baby whose arm became paralyzed during delivery. An infant brain injury case ended with a $41.6 million settlement, and a case of infant cerebral palsy led to a $53 million settlement.

How expectant mothers can lower the chances of a birth injury

Expectant mothers in Texas should not be content to trust any hospital when it comes to prenatal care. The fact is that maternal mortality rates have hit record highs in the U.S., reportedly because of hospital negligence. Physicians may fail to adequately assess or respond to complications that arise with a pregnancy, and staff members may cut corners to save money. Understaffing, poor training, below-average pay and a lack of regulations also contribute.

Expectant mothers must first of all take control of their prenatal care to reduce the risk for complications during delivery. For example, they can follow the recommendations for diet and exercise and take prenatal vitamins once they find out they are pregnant. They can note the baby's movements and any illnesses or abnormalities in a journal; this will also help the doctor prepare for birth.

HELLP syndrome often misdiagnosed in pregnant moms

An estimated two to six percent of pregnant mothers in Texas experience HELLP syndrome during their pregnancy. The condition is believed to be related to preeclampsia and can be dangerous for both the mom and the unborn baby. The condition causes the red blood cells to break down, elevates liver enzyme levels and decreases the number of platelets, which are responsible for helping the blood to clot. It is often initially misdiagnosed as it has similar symptoms of other conditions, such as gallbladder disease or hepatitis.

Common symptoms of HELLP include headaches that don't go away with rest or medication, upper right abdominal tenderness or pain, fatigue, and nausea and vomiting. These symptoms may also occur as part of pregnancy, so the condition may be dismissed by a patient or a provider until it has advanced to a later stage. When HELLP occurs as a part of preeclampsia, the patient may also experience protein in their urine, visual disturbances and swelling.

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