Every three hours in the U.S., a baby that has been developing normally throughout the mother’s pregnancy is injured during the birthing process. Nearly 100 percent of these injuries are due to medical malpractice and could be prevented. The most common birth injury is hypoxia, a condition where the fetus is deprived of oxygen during labor, delivery or immediately after birth to a degree that the tissues and organs, including the brain, are adversely affected.
The consequences of hypoxia are serious. Depending on the length of time the infant was deprived of oxygen, the baby may be debilitated for life and never obtain normal physical or cognitive functioning. Approximately one-third of hypoxic newborns succumb shortly after their birth.
There are several causes of hypoxia. All should be identified and diagnosed as soon as possible in order to decrease the chances of permanent damage. Some main causes include:
The baby must be resuscitated as quickly as possible. Oxygen flow must be established and all measures taken to be sure that the baby is properly ventilated.
Therapeutic hypothermia, also known as cooling therapy, is frequently used. It reduces the core body temperature of the infant. When the body and brain are cooled, brain swelling and damage are minimized. To be effective, cooling must start within six hours of birth and continue for no longer than three days.
As the child grows, physical rehabilitation may be required to strengthen muscles when functioning has been impaired due to the hypoxia. Emotional and educational rehabilitation may also be required. Although there are no known cures, there are medications to control symptoms.
Cognitive and physical disabilities may not become apparent until early childhood. In some cases, disabilities are not detected until children begin school. The earlier disabilities are detected and diagnosed, the sooner rehabilitation can begin. There are some signs you can watch for during infancy that will indicate your baby suffered from hypoxia. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your medical professional as soon as possible for further evaluation:
There are a number of medical conditions that are caused by neonatal hypoxia. A few of them include:
Rehabilitation may help improve physical and cognitive disabilities, but generally, any rehabilitative treatment must be continued on a long-term or even permanent basis.
If your child suffers long-term, incurable medical conditions due to hypoxia caused by medical malpractice, you may be entitled to collect damages for:
If your infant is showing signs of delayed physical and emotional development, has Cerebral Palsy or seizure disorders and you suspect these were caused by neonatal hypoxia, contact us at Meinhart, Smith & Manning, PLLC. We offer a free consultation and case assessment to determine if the hypoxia was due to medical malpractice and if you may be entitled to collect damages.