When babies are born premature, they are at risk for several conditions related to underdeveloped organs, such as the lungs. Premature newborns are also more susceptible to infections and viruses, as their immune systems are weak. One of the more common conditions that a premature infant or newborn with low weight may develop is necrotizing enterocolitis, which is marked by severe intestinal inflammation or injury that can lead to large and small intestinal tissue holes. When the intestines are permeable from destroyed tissue or perforations, bodily waste and bacteria can escape into the bloodstream or pool in the abdomen. The disease can be deadly and thus, requires quick responses from doctors and other medical professionals.
Necrotizing Enterocolitis Explained
Premature babies can become very sick from necrotizing enterocolitis. Waste carried from the body through the intestines contains infection-causing bacteria. When waste bacteria enter the bloodstream, an infant can suffer a severe infection, accompanied by high fever, vomiting, and inconsolable crying. Other signs of the condition may be tenderness and swelling in the abdomen, bloody stools, lethargy, low blood pressure, constipation, diarrhea, and uneven or slowed breathing, heart rate, and body temperature.
Since babies often experience other digestive problems, such as colic and gastroesophageal reflux, doctors sometimes miss the correct diagnosis of NEC. Delayed diagnosis can result in severe complications. Necrotizing Enterocolitis can cause damaged intestinal tissue to die, sometimes requiring surgical removal and repair. As such, quick diagnosis often means less damage after treatment and removal of the source of the condition.
Common Causes of Necrotizing Enterocolitis
Some causes cannot be helped, like infant prematurity, especially those born earlier than 32 weeks. When the intestines have not fully developed, they may malfunction. However, babies born after 32 weeks with other health challenges can suffer from NEC as well. The birth itself, may cause the disease when oxygen or blood is cut off from the intestines, the intensity of labor causes intestinal injury, or viral and bacterial infections invade the intestines and damage them. Finally, baby formula may increase the risk for intestinal problems and subsequent development of necrotizing enterocolitis.
How is Necrotizing Enterocolitis Diagnosed?
Removing the causes may alleviate symptoms, but a diagnosis of the condition is necessary to administer proper treatment. A simple x-ray can show the intestine’s malfunctioning as unusual air and gas bubbling appear in the intestines and nearby organs, such as the liver. Fluid removed from the baby’s belly may also confirm the diagnosis.
How is Necrotizing Enterocolitis Treated and Managed?
Once diagnosed, treatment of the disease consists of removing further damaging sources, like feeding. For example, an intravenous line with nutrition and antibiotics replaces the mother’s milk or formula. If there is no food intake, there is no waste. In addition, the doctor removes the air and fluid that builds up in the stomach and intestines to clean up and relieve pain and pressure. If necessary, a referral to a pediatric surgeon may be required if damaged tissue needs removal or intestinal damage repaired. Babies whose lives are in danger may need emergency surgery.
Delayed diagnosis and treatment can cause complications, including respiratory problems and anemia. Too much belly swelling affects the baby’s breathing ability, sometimes necessitating a ventilator to keep them breathing. Additionally, blood loss through the intestines into the stool may result in excess red blood cell loss and anemia. Waiting too long to treat NEC can lead to surgical removal of damaged or decayed tissue to make way for repaired healthy tissue. A surgeon can often stitch the intestine whole again unless too much damage occurs. In that case, the baby needs an exit for waste through the stomach. The surgeon builds that opening, a stoma, by performing an ostomy. The procedure allows the intestine to connect to the opening in the abdomen. That waste removal system stays in place until the intestines are intended to heal in several months.
As one might expect, failure to perform necessary surgery or errors during surgery to address necrotizing enterocolitis may cause devastating harm.
Long-Term Damage from Necrotizing Enterocolitis
If the intestines develop scars or blockages, further surgery may be in the baby’s future. Finally, necrotizing enterocolitis may permanently damage the intestines’ ability to absorb nutrients from food. A baby with malabsorption may need intravenous feeding until the intestines can serve their fundamental role and function again. Complications that worsen a newborn’s condition can result from delayed treatment, but also from factors like the severity of the disease. Each infant experiences the disease differently and has varying degrees of success with recovery, depending on the baby’s overall health. However, quick treatment is still key to less severe damage and speedier recovery, not to mention less suffering for the affected newborn.
What if my Child Suffered Harm from Malpractice with Necrotizing Enterocolitis?
Nothing can be more painful for a parent than to see their tiny, helpless infant suffer. If you and your baby endured the ordeal of prolonged illness due to medical malpractice with necrotizing enterocolitis, you might experience an array of emotions. When a doctor misses the right call on your baby’s illness, the physical, emotional, psychological, and financial effects can be extreme. What might have been a brief bought with illness turned into multiple surgeries to fix complications, arising from untreated or improperly diagnosed and treated necrotizing enterocolitis. The consequences may worsen with the condition remaining too long.
If this happened to your child, you deserve compensation for the damages incurred due to a medical professional’s negligence that led to your baby’s worsening condition. Their past, current, and future care; many other related economic losses; along with the impact that this malpractice event had on your child and your family, can be justly compensated in a court of law. If you have a viable claim for necrotizing enterocolitis malpractice, you may be able to have your medical costs covered and reimbursed from the responsible party or parties. In addition, anything you lost or laid out financially, like time off work to attend hospital and doctor visits or to caretake your sick baby, may be recovered. And if your baby is likely to have future surgeries or health problems due to the misdiagnosed or improperly managed necrotizing enterocolitis, a court may award you further economic losses. You might recover the costs of future surgeries, caretaking needs, and tailored therapies for your child’s recovery.
Questions about Filing a Lawsuit for Necrotizing Enterocolitis in NJ? We can Help
To find out how to recover your damages via a claim for negligent diagnosis, treatment, or care for necrotizing enterocolitis, contact our renowned pediatric malpractice attorneys today. We can walk you through the various options to achieving your goals and assess the possibility of a favorable claim against the healthcare providers responsible. Our legal team can provide a better understanding of the laws and complexities in medical malpractice claims involving children, and optimally, we can help you obtain the necessary resources to facilitate a better life for your baby. Contact our offices in New Jersey today for a free case review. You can reach us anytime at (866)-708-8617 for further assistance.