Delays in Diagnosing Birth Injuries & Possible Consequences in New Jersey
Birthing a child is miraculous. The body’s production of hormones and contractions at just the right time to move the fetus from the womb to the outside world is an incredible human feat of perfection when all goes right. Unfortunately, sometimes all does not go well. Complications occur. A baby may be too big for the mother’s pelvis, and labor goes on for too long to safely deliver a baby. Other complications arise before the onset of labor, which is why it is so important for doctors to diagnose, treat, or prepare for emergencies before the mother or baby suffers a birth injury or worse. However, birth injuries that remain undiagnosed may lead to permanent damage to a child. Some injuries to a newborn that go untreated too long can lead to lifelong mental, emotional and physical challenges, or even death.
Why is it Important to Diagnose a Birth Injury as Soon as Possible?
Experienced birth and medical professionals like obstetricians, know that they must beware of possible birth injury risk factors in any pregnancy, regardless of the patient’s age, health, and history. The danger in overlooking birth injury symptoms is the missed window of opportunity to eliminate a treatable condition. Some conditions need immediate treatment for the best possible outcome for a newborn. Delayed diagnosis is one of the leading factors that contribute to worsening prognosis for children with birth injuries and missed treatment opportunities that may prevent ever more severe problems. Some emergency situations, like fetal distress, can even cause death if left undiagnosed and untreated. In addition, even healthy mothers give birth to children with congenital conditions. When a medical professional’s oversight fails to detect problem signs, they miss the chance to run the appropriate tests that reveal a potential problem or condition that parents need to know about. Every parent should know how to prepare for life with a child with special needs.
What are Some Common Birth Conditions that Need to be Diagnosed Early?
One well-known complication leading to birth injuries is hypoxia, low oxygen levels to the fetus due to several potential conditions, most prominently umbilical cord prolapse, fetal position, shoulder dystocia, preeclampsia, and placental problems. Oxygen deprivation can lead to brain damage that affects a child for the rest of their life with developmental delays, including cognitive deficits. Children with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), for example, experience learning disabilities and behavioral problems in school with moderate cases, and cerebral palsy and seizures in more severe cases. A fetus that suffers oxygen starvation for ten minutes or more may suffer from HIE or other permanent conditions.
Treatment often consists of deliberately induced hypothermia after the baby delivers to slow down brain processes to let the brain recover. However, prevention is far more effective. Careful fetal monitoring allows medical professionals to discover fetal distress in time and prepare for potential problems in anticipation of labor, such as controlling a patient’s preeclampsia, changing the fetus’s position, or performing a C-section delivery.
Although doctors and nurses examine a newborn post-delivery for outward signs of trauma or other injuries, such as a misshapen head, respiratory problems, or skin discoloration, most internal abnormalities require further testing. For example, specific tests locate brain swelling from head trauma or meconium aspiration for breathing problems. And some injuries do not appear until after discharge from the hospital or birth center. Likewise, a baby who acts unusual, overly fussy, or lethargic may have underlying health problems from birth. One should seek immediate medical attention for labored breathing and seizures, but subtle signs may appear over time, such as a baby lagging on significant milestones.
What Happens if a Doctor Diagnoses Birth Injuries Late?
A physician who examines a baby at their well-baby visits should probe parents further for symptoms that may indicate a health problem and then follow up with diagnostic tests. The first test may be a physical evaluation of the baby’s reflexes, heart rate, and muscle functioning. Doctors order other tests to investigate abnormalities such as electroencephalogram or EEG to find brain malfunctioning. Birth injuries affecting the brain show up when abnormal brain waves indicate parts of the brain that may not be responsive. Cerebral palsy is a common brain disorder that can be diagnosed with an EEG. Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI detects brain and musculoskeletal defects due to brachial plexus injuries, cerebral palsy, torn ligaments, and bone fractures. Likewise, a doctor can find cerebral palsy and intellectual deficiencies by getting a closer, three-dimensional look with a Positive Emission Tomography Scan or PET scan. Failing to order one or more of these tests may be considered medical negligence when a baby shows signs of physical, behavioral, or mental disorders.
Even before delivery, birth defects are often detectable in genetic testing in the second trimester. Doctors who fail to discuss genetic testing options with their patients, especially those with a medical history that could affect the fetus or older mothers, may be liable for wrongful birth. In fact, at any time during the pregnancy when a mother experiences symptoms, a doctor must order tests to avoid damaging the health of the mother and fetus. Delayed treatment can end tragically. Thus, when labor stalls for too long, causing dangerously high stress to mother and baby, a delayed cesarean section could lead to birth injuries for the newborn or severe health complications like a heart attack for the mother. Delayed treatment from misdiagnosis or late diagnosis could be fatal to either the mother or baby. Thus, early diagnosis, testing, test results review, and treatment are the best defenses against further birth injury complications.
If a doctor or other medical provider is delayed in ordering the appropriate testing, birth injuries that jeopardize a child’s health, future, and life itself may progress. This may result in a situation in which the child’s condition is untreatable, or far worse and more difficult to address through available treatment and therapeutic options.
Delayed Diagnosis of a Birth Injury: When is it Malpractice?
When medical professionals make mistakes that they should not have, they can unintentionally cause devastation. However, with the years in medical school, interning, qualifying boards, and continuing education on top of experience, doctors are held to a high standard of competency. Lives depend on their competency and victims who suffer the results of their insufficient care have certain rights. If your baby suffered a birth injury that your obstetrician, pediatrician, lab technician, or other medical personnel could have avoided, or the damage mitigated if diagnosis and treatment began earlier, you may be justified in bringing a claim against them.
Who Should I Talk to about my Legal Options in New Jersey?
Your child and your family may need compensation to recuperate your economic and other losses and fund your child’s future therapeutic needs. For example, your child may need special tools and equipment to assist daily functioning. Additionally, your child may need speech, physical, occupational or psychological therapy. With legal experience and guidance from a talented birth injury lawyer, you may discover that you have more options than you thought for receiving the compensation you and your child need for the health of your family.
Our distinguished birth injury attorneys serve counties across the state of New Jersey, employing extensive resources, years of background, and in-depth knowledge of prenatal, childbirth, and pediatric malpractice law to deliver our clients their just due compensation. To speak with a lawyer about late diagnosis of your baby’s birth injury, contact us for a free consultation by calling (866)-708-8617 or filling out our easily accessible free case review request form.