New Jersey HELLP Syndrome Malpractice Lawyers
HELLP syndrome is a dangerous third-trimester pregnancy complication that can cause serious health problems in both the mother and child. In rare instances, it can even be fatal. The acronym H-E-L-L-P describes the condition, which is marked by ruptured blood cells, high liver enzyme levels, and low blood platelets, creating a higher risk for blood clots. The word “syndrome” describes the various symptoms of the disease. The condition commonly arises in women who also suffer from preeclampsia, involving high blood pressure during pregnancy, and eclampsia, which is uncontrolled preeclampsia that worsens, causing seizures and other serious complications. While commonly occurring in conjunction with these other conditions, pregnant women can also experience HELLP syndrome without having either preeclampsia or eclampsia. Since HELLP is a serious pregnancy condition, early diagnosis and treatment is an absolute must.
As such, doctors must be educated about HELLP and possibly consult with specialists who are further informed about it, thus ensuring that the diagnosis is made early enough to avoid emergencies and surprises that leave medical providers unprepared and patients permanently injured, or worse. Should you or your child experience complications or serious birth injuries resulting from undiagnosed, untreated, or mismanaged HELLP syndrome, it is critical to explore your legal options within the time limitations for filing a birth injury or medical malpractice lawsuit. To discuss what happened to you or your loved one, simply contact 866-708-8617 to connect with an experienced New Jersey lawyer handling medical malpractice with pregnancy complications. Our team assists medical negligence victims and their families across the state of New Jersey and we are here to help if you received substandard care in the course of pregnancy or childbirth. The consultation is always provided at no cost, so please don’t hesitate to reach out for legal counsel.
HELLP Syndrome is Often Misdiagnosed
Although HELLP syndrome affects up to .06% of pregnancies, it is often misdiagnosed. The difficulty of diagnosing the condition is well-established, as women with HELLP may display a range of disparate symptoms that look much like normal pregnancy complaints, such as fatigue, swelling, headaches, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and vision problems. Likewise, the symptoms may appear similarly to the onset of preeclampsia, gallbladder problems, or hepatitis, leading many doctors to miss or err in making an accurate diagnosis. Notably, not all women have all of these symptoms.
While some aspects of HELLP may seem like ordinary illnesses or other conditions at first glance, they can turn into major medical problems endangering mother and baby if left untreated. The condition most often leads to premature birth if mother or baby are not doing well. For this reason, doctors must be particularly cautious with pregnant women displaying some or all these symptoms and test for HELLP. They must not assume a diagnosis without rigorously ruling out dangerous conditions. A series of blood tests can aid in identifying the syndrome by detecting low platelet counts and high liver enzyme production, in addition to consistent readings of blood pressure and proteins in the mother’s urine.
Certain Factors Increase HELLP Syndrome Risk
Currently, science does not know what causes HELLP. Nevertheless, certain risk factors make it more likely that some women will suffer from it over others, for example:
- Prior preeclampsia or HELLP during pregnancy
- Being older than 25
- More than two past births
Sometimes, the fetus’s genetics contribute to the mother’s development of HELLP. Fetuses with LCHAD deficiency, when the body cannot break down fat into energy, are correlated to women with HELLP in a small percentage of the total cases. Since there is no direct identified cause of the disease, such as a defective gene, there may be many inherited and environmental contributors to the condition. While doctors can look at some genetic factors associated with the likelihood of developing HELLP, not all women with those same factors develop the disease. As such, OB-GYNs should take in all of the evidence of history, symptoms, and signs of disease, test to find HELLP, and rule out other possible causes of symptoms. A referral to a specialist expert in this question may be appropriate medical practice as well.
How is HELLP Syndrome Treated?
Aside from inducing labor, other treatment for HELLP involves medications or blood transfusion for hemorrhaging and platelet replacement. Here is where physicians are especially challenged with making the right calls. A fetus’s lungs do not develop until the last weeks of pregnancy, so premature delivery always comes with risks of severe health problems for the premature infant. Preemies are prone to respiratory distress syndrome, among other life-endangering conditions. Thus, the objective is to maintain the pregnancy for as long as possible, balancing the health of the mother against the health of the baby at times. Doctors frequently recommend bed rest and medications that prevent seizures in the mother and help to further develop the lungs of the baby. Most critical is close monitoring of the mother and baby for blood pressure and heart rate. Once the pregnancy reaches 34 weeks, doctors may opt for delivery if maternal symptoms or health of the baby are worsening.
Complications from HELLP Syndrome can be Serious or Deadly
Whether a woman’s symptoms improve or worsen after delivery depends on the severity of the case, but it varies among women. Severe cases are characterized by serious complications, such as:
- Placental abruption (separated placenta)
- Kidney failure
- Pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs)
- Ruptured liver
- Disseminated intravascular coagulation or DIC (clots that block blood vessels)
In addition to potentially damaging complications for the mother, there are serious complications that may affect the child as well. For instance, the baby risks lung failure. Other severe complications include sepsis, stroke, and respiratory distress. Mothers who maintain their pregnancy longer typically give birth to babies with fewer severe neonatal health problems. Nearly three quarters of HELLP babies deliver early, and prematurity is one of the major causes of unborn and newborn deaths. While slightly more than 1% of HELLP syndrome mothers die from it, far more infants do: up to 60%.
Medical Negligence with HELLP Syndrome
Ultimately, HELLP is a potentially crippling condition. Without known causes and few available remedies, HELLP syndrome can only be controlled and monitored. Considering the risks, the best defense against harm for the mother and baby is the extreme competence, vigilance, and cautiousness of their treating physician. By not being too quick to dismiss ordinary looking pregnancy symptoms, studying the patient’s history for risk factors, ruling out or identifying HELLP syndrome with the appropriate tests, and referring patients to specialists in the obstetrical field, doctors can be prepared for their HELLP patients and focus their treatment on the eventual complications that often come with it. In that way, doctors bear the burden of keeping pregnant women and their babies from dying or being injured, identifying HELLP and properly responding in every way they can. Failure to do so is more than a mere mistake. It may be medical malpractice.
Fighting for Compensation if HELLP Syndrome was Undiagnosed or Untreated in NJ
If you or your baby were injured from the mishandling of your HELLP syndrome, be sure you speak with a knowledgeable pregnancy and birth malpractice attorney about your circumstances and what legal remedies may be available to you. When looking for the best lawyer to handle your potential case, it is imperative to find someone who who knows about HELLP syndrome, frequently represents victims of medical malpractice during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and has expert medical professionals at their disposal to review your case and determine if your injuries or those of your baby could have been avoided with better care. You and your baby may be due compensation from those doctors, medical providers, hospitals, and facilities that negligently treated your pregnancy condition. For further information and highly qualified legal counsel, call 866-708-8617 or contact us via message today.