When Infant Brain Injury Due to Medical Malpractice Can be Compensated
While most babies are born healthy and without complication, unfortunately there are times when a baby may suffer from complications, leading to injury. Some injuries may be mild (i.e. bruising), while others are more severe. An example of a severe injury is brain damage due to brain injury. Brain injuries can be caused by a number of complications, but often if a baby suffers a brain injury during the labor and delivery, it is often due to negligence. It is considered to be a complication due to negligence if the physician or other healthcare provider could have prevented the injury from occurring. Infant brain injury due to medical malpractice can result in liability for a healthcare provider.
This is because Oregon and Minnesota law allow victims and their families to recover compensation when a defendant healthcare provider causes negligent or intentional injuries to a family member—especially a young family member like a newborn baby. Infant brain injury cases are notoriously difficult and need to be handled by someone with experience handling infant and birth injury cases, like our lawyer at CK Legal.
Complications Leading to Brain Injury
There are many complications that can cause an infant to have a brain injury during the labor and delivery. Some of these can be entirely prevented while others may be more difficult to prevent. Examples of complications leading to brain injury include the following:
- Placental abruption – this occurs when the placenta detaches from the uterus prematurely, leading to a decrease or complete absence of blood flow and oxygen to the baby. This is considered to be an emergency and a c-section must be performed immediately
- Umbilical cord prolapse – this too is considered a medical emergency. Umbilical cord prolapse occurs when the umbilical cord comes out before the baby. The pressure on the cord from the baby can clamp off the flow of oxygen and blood flow to the baby, leading to a serious brain injury
- Nuchal cord – This medical emergency can occur during pregnancy, labor or delivery. This occurs when the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck. While not all cases of nuchal cord are considered to be a medical emergency, if there is a true nuchal cord (or a tight knot), it will restrict blood flow and oxygen to the baby, causing brain injury
- Maternal hypotension (low blood pressure) – if the mother’s blood pressure is is significantly low, it can restrict the amount of oxygen the baby receives, leading to brain injury
- Delivery trauma – if trauma occurs during delivery, it can sometimes interrupt the flow of blood and oxygen to the baby
- Other maternal conditions – if a mother has significant respiratory or cardiac problems, a c-section may be indicated to avoid potential neonatal complications, such as brain injuries
- Maternal infections – certain maternal infections can result in neonatal brain damage. Most often, transmission of infection occurs during labor and delivery, but can occur in the later stages of pregnancy. Examples of maternal infection leading to brain damage include toxoplasmosis, and chorioamnioitis
- Untreated neonatal jaundice – this complication actually occurs within the baby. While jaundice itself is very treatable, if left untreated it can lead to significant brain injury
Brain Injuries Due to Improper Management of Complications
There are sadly many different types of brain injuries a newborn can sustain if complications are not properly treated, or in some cases avoided entirely. Examples of brain injuries occurring due to medical malpractice include the following:
- Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy – This type of brain injury is one of the most severe types of brain injuries. This type of injury occurs when there is a disruption of both oxygen (hypoxia) and blood flow (ischemia) to the brain, leading to brain cell death and damage. While there is a treatment for hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, infants usually sustain some degree of brain damage, and often it is quite severe. This type of complication can occur due to many complications occurring during labor and delivery, but often due to umbilical cord problems, placental abruption, or delivery trauma
- Brain Bleeds – Brain bleeds are also considered to be a type of brain injury that can occur during labor and delivery. The two types of brain bleeds typically seen are hematoma and hemorrhage. A hemorrhage refers to internal bleeding inside the baby’s brain, while a hematoma is a collection of blood that occurs outside of the blood vessels
- Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL) – This type of injury can occur in premature infects. Sadly, this condition often causes epilepsy, developmental delays, and cerebral palsy. PVL occurs when the area in the brain around the ventricles (the white matter) becomes decayed and damage. The most common cause of PVL is due to a reduction of blood and oxygen to the baby’s brain during pregnancy, but also can be caused by maternal infection
- Kernicterus – This serious condition is a result of untreated jaundice. Kernicterus is generally considered to be completely preventable, as jaundice is generally easily treatable. If a physician fails to identify jaundice, or fails to treat jaundice appropriately, kernicterus can result. Sadly, kernicterus causes significant and irreversible brain damage.
- Hydropcephalus – This type of injury occurs to a cerebrospinal fluid entering into the ventricles of the brain. It commonly is due to external trauma to the head during labor and delivery, but can also be caused by chromosomal abnormalities
- Caput Succedaneum – This type of injury occurs most commonly due to external pressure during a vaginal delivery. This can be caused by the pressure of exiting the birth canal, or can be caused by used of assistive delivery tools. While it is not entirely considered to be a brain injury, it can lead to more serious complications and conditions that can cause brain damage
Brain Damage Due to Medical Malpractice
Sadly, while not all cases brain injury can be prevented, many times brain injuries that occur during pregnancy, labor and delivery can be entirely preventable. Examples of medical malpractice related causes include the following:
- Failure to perform an emergency c-section or failure to schedule a c-section when the a vaginal birth is contraindicated
- Failure to identify signs of fetal distress during labor and delivery (i.e. non-reassuring signs on contraction monitoring)
- Failure to treat maternal health problems that can lead to brain injuries (i.e hypotension)
- Failure to treat maternal infection
- Failure to delay labor (if possible), leading to a pre-mature delivery
- Improper use of extraction tools, leading to injury
- Failure to properly manage complications such as nuchal cord, placental abruption, or umbilical cord prolapse
- Use of excessive force during delivery, leading to brain injury
- Failure to manage neonatal jaundice, leading to brain injury
- Failure to manage any complications that can lead to brain injury
Ask for Help if an Infant Brain Injury Harmed Your Loved One
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.