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When Medical Malpractice Results in Brain Damage and Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy can be the result of an avoidable birth injury. Additionally, it can have other causes or no known cause. In order to determine if your child’s cerebral palsy was the result of a delivery room error or malpractice, a medical expert will need to review the medical chart to determine if medical negligence led to brain damage.
Do I Have a Medical Malpractice Case?
If your child suffered fetal distress during delivery and later was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, you may suspect negligence. Call the law offices of Powers & Santola, LLP, at 315-308-1020 or contact us online. We offer a free initial consultation at our offices in Albany and Syracuse in upstate New York.
Our medical malpractice attorneys handle birth injury cases against doctors and midwives, hospitals and clinics in New York State. Our results speak for themselves: we have achieved millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for families whose children suffered serious injury during pregnancy and childbirth.
Cerebral Palsy and Lack of Oxygen to the Brain
If the amount of oxygen reaching a baby’s brain is insufficient, the baby will suffer “hypoxia.” Brain cells will begin to die. If enough brain cells die, permanent, irreversible brain damage (“hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy” (HIE)) occurs. Because of the danger of HIE, doctors generally monitor the well-being of the baby throughout the birth process.
An electronic fetal monitor (EFM) measures the fetal heart rate. If the heart rate changes in response to the stresses of labor and delivery, the baby may be suffering a lack of oxygen (hypoxia and ischemia). This is called fetal distress.[/spoiler]
Treating Fetal Hypoxia
If the fetal heart monitor shows the baby is in distress, immediate action should be taken to prevent brain damage. Doctors and midwives may:
- Provide the mother with additional oxygen through an oxygen mask
- Reposition the mother to increase the efficiency of the mother’s circulatory system
- Perform a vaginal examination to determine if the umbilical cord is prolapsed (in the wrong place)
If these simple solutions do not help and the fetus continues to show distress, parents should be told of the risk to the baby and allowed to decide whether to continue with labor or immediately deliver the baby through an emergency c-section.[/spoiler]
Diagnosing Cerebral Palsy
As a general rule, a review of the medical chart of an infant who suffered cerebral palsy as the result of anoxic brain damage will show that the child had:
- Profound metabolic or mixed acidemia in the umbilical cord arterial blood, exhibited by a pH of less than 7.00; and
- APGAR scores between 0-3 for more than 5 minutes after birth; and
- Neonatal seizures, hypotonia or coma, and
- Dysfunction in any or all of the child’s cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, hematologic, pulmonary or renal systems.
Medical negligence may have occurred if the healthcare provider:
- Failed to monitor the condition of the mother and fetus during labor and delivery
- Failed to review the test strip on the fetal heart monitor
- Failed to take prompt action when fetal distress was apparent
- Failed to inform parents of the risk and to conduct an emergency c-section
If your child has cerebral palsy and you suspect negligence, talk to an experienced upstate New York medical malpractice lawyer. Contact Powers & Santola, LLP, online or call us to schedule a free consultation in our Albany (518-465-5995) or Syracuse office (315-308-1020) in upstate New York.