Understanding When Your Baby With Congenital Heart Defects is Due to Medical Malpractice in Portland, OR
While most babies are born healthy and without incident, there are times when a baby sadly has a birth defect or complication during birth. Some defects can be detected prenatally (while in the womb) while others are not detected until after the baby is born. Different types of defects or syndromes that may be detected include limb differences (i.e deformed or missing limb), cleft lip or palate, down syndrome, organ abnormalities (i.e missing a kidney), or congenital heart defects amongst many other defects that may be identified before or after birth. A baby with congenital heart defects is very common, but serious. Roughly 40,000 babies are born every year with congenital defects, according to John Hopkin’s Medicine. While it may be perhaps one of the most common birth defect, failure to diagnose this defect can lead to serious complications, including wrongful death of the newborn. Thus, it is critical to identify these defects prenatally or immediately at birth to ensure the newborn receives adequate care and treatment. Otherwise, negligent care could be due to Oregon medical malpractice.
What Are Congenital Heart Defects?
Congenital heart defects are abnormalities of the heart that occur before the baby is born. These defects occur when the heart is developing in utero. Some of these defects are easily detected during an ultrasound conducted while in utero, while others may not be as obvious until the baby is born. A baby with congenital heart defects can be serious.
Examples of congenital heart defects according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention include the following:
- Coarctation of the Aorta
- Atrial Septal Defect
- Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome
- Tetralogy of Fallot
- Pulmonary Atesia
- Atrioventricular Septal Defect
- Tricuspid Astresia
- Ventricular Septal Defect
- Ebstein Anomaly
- Single Ventricle
- Double-outlet of the Right Ventricle
- Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return
- d-Transposition of the Great Arteries
- Truncus Arteriosus
- Interrupted Aortic Arch
These congenital heat defects can range from mild to severe. Early identification is key to allow the newborn to receive proper treatment Failure to identify a congenital heart defect can result in irreversible lung damage, heart damage or death.
What Causes Congenital Heart Defects?
There are many reasons why a baby may develop a congenital heart defect. Causes of congenital heart defects include the following:
- Use of certain medications during pregnancy (i.e Lithium, Isotretinoin, Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Thalidomide, Ace Inhibitors)
- Genetic abnormalities
- Chromosomal abnormalities
- Maternal health conditions such as obesity, maternal phenylketonuria (PKU), Rubella, Lupus, pre-existing diabetes
- Alcohol use while pregnant
Approximately 15% of all congenital heart defects are due to genetic or chromosomal abnormalities.
What are the Symptoms of a Baby With Congenital Heart Defects?
Symptoms of CHD in newborns include the following:
- Poor feeding
- Cyanosis (blue-tinged skin, fingernails and lips due to an inadequate amount of oxygenated blood)
- Rapid breathing
- Lung infections
- Swelling of the legs
- Swelling around the eyes
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Heart murmur
- Weak pulse
- Poor weight gain
Diagnosing a Baby With Congenital Heart Defect
As mentioned above, some congenital heart defects can be detected before the baby is born (while in utero). In this case, a fetal ultrasound can detect an abnormality, and a more specialized echocardiogram can be performed while in utero. Some defects may be detectable if the physician or ultrasound technician listens to the baby with the use of the ultrasound machine or doppler machine to check the heart beat.
If a physician is unable to diagnose the congenital heart defect (or fails to) while in utero, the heart defect should be detected at birth. Many types of congenital heart defects are detectable with the use of a stethoscope. Babies may also present with the symptoms above that are indicative that the newborn may have a heart condition and further testing should be conducted.
If a physician fails to identify the congenital heart defect, the newborn may be sent home without proper medication, surgery or other treatment. In these cases, the newborn may not be diagnosed until further damage to the heart or lungs has been done, or until the infant has died. When failure to diagnose causes harm to the infant or death, this is considered medical malpractice.
What are the Treatments for CHD?
Treatment for congenital heart defects depends on the type of defect the newborn has, and the severity. Common treatments for CHD include the following:
- Surgery – Surgery is used if the defect will not heal on its own, medication therapy is not an option, or medication therapy is ineffective. There are times when a baby is able to have surgery while in utero to fix the defect. This is not very common, but can be very effective for certain defects
- Medication Therapy – Medication therapy is used for certain types of defects when the baby will not benefit from surgery or needs to grow more before having the surgery. Many different medications are used and are used for a variety of reasons, including keeping the arteries and blood vessels open, regulating heart rhythm, regulation of blood pressure or for fluid removal amongst many other purposes
- Observation – if a heart defect is mild, causing no effect or likely will heal on its own, this route is chosen
- Heart transplant – this is chosen if the defect is so severe in that it will not benefit from other surgeries or medications
Complications from Delay in Detecting CHD Due to Medical Malpractice
There are many ways in which complications from a delay in diagnosing heart conditions may be due to medical malpractice. Examples include the following:
- Failing to detect an abnormality identifiable in utero, leading to complications
- Failing to detect an identifiable abnormality at birth, leading to complications
- Failing to perform congenital heart defect screening
- Failing to further explore a potential abnormality
- Misdiagnosing the congenital heart defect as something else, or the wrong type of defect
- Providing inadequate treatment for congenital heart defect
These are just a few of the many ways in which a providers actions may cause complications as the result of inadequate treatment or a delay in diagnosing your infant’s congenital heart defect.
Ask Our Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Portland, OR For Help With a CHD Case
If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice contact the Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Kuhlman Law at our number below or fill out the intake form. We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover.
Our law firm handles cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Central Oregon, Sisters, Madras, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, La Grande, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Pendleton, Cottage Grove, Florence, Oregon City, Springfield, Keizer, Grants Pass, McMinnville, Tualatin, West Linn, Forest Grove, Wilsonville, Newberg, Roseburg, Lake Oswego, Klamath Falls, Happy Valley, Tigard, Ashland, Milwakie, Coos Bay, The Dalles, St. Helens, Sherwood, Central Point, Canby, Troutdale, Hermiston, Silverton, Hood River, Newport, Prineville, Astoria, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Hillsboro, and Vancouver, Washington.
We also have an office in Minneapolis, Minnesota and take medical malpractice cases throughout the Twin Cities, including St. Paul, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County, Washington County, Anoka County, Scott County, Blaine, Stillwater, and Saint Paul Minnesota.