Common Umbilical Cord Problems That Need to be Monitored or it Could be Medical Malpractice

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Failure to Diagnose, Monitor, and Treat Umbilical Cord Problems Resulting Medical Malpractice

Most people are familiar with the fact that a baby is connected to their mother by the umbilical cord. What they may not understand is the function of the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord is actually a vital structure that is needed in order to keep the baby alive. The umbilical cord supplies the baby with the nutrients and oxygen it needs to grow and live, as well as allows for carbon dioxide to be removed through the umbilical cord. If an umbilical cord problem develops, it can lead to serious injury, including death.  This could be due to medical malpractice.

There are many reasons why umbilical cord problems could result in medical malpractice injuries.  These reasons often are due to the failure to diagnose, monitor, and treat and umbilical cord problems.  Some of these problems are easily corrected, while others may require more advanced treatment but could still preserve the life and limb of a baby.  Unfortunately, mistakes can result in serious personal injuries including catastrophic damage due to medical malpractice.

The Umbilical Cord Explained

As mentioned above, the umbilical cord is vital for survival. Two arteries and one vein make up the umbilical cord, allowing oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to the baby. When an umbilical cord problem develops, it threatens the vital functions that the cord has, creating a dangerous environment for the baby. Umbilical cord problems can develop at any time during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. They can result in serious birth injuries.

Factors That Can Impair Umbilical Cord Function

Umbilical Cord that is too short-  The length of the umbilical cord is something that actually is quite important. If an umbilical cord is too long or too short, it can create complications. Umbilical cords actually grow in length throughout the pregnancy to accommodate for the baby’s increasing size, movement and position of the baby. If an umbilical cord is too short, it can increase the risk for oxygen deprivation, lack of nutrients, placental abruption, and fetal distress. Additional complications from a short umbilical cord includes low birth weight due to lack of nutrients, low Apgar scores, and developmental issues. 

Umbilical Cord that is too long – A long umbilical cord can create risks for other complications as well, particularly during labor and delivery of the baby. A long umbilical cord can lead to true cord knots, cord prolapse, or fetal entanglement. These types of complications are considered to be medical emergencies as they can cause oxygen deprivation, leading to catastrophic bran injuries. 

Abnormal attachment of the umbilical cord to the placenta – This is known as abnormal cord insertion. Together, the placenta and umbilical cord play important parts in the transportation of nutrients and oxygen to the placenta, so if there is abnormal attachment, it can impair these functions. Abnormal cord insertion can increase the risk for vasa previa as well as hypertension

Positioning of the umbilical cord – the position of the umbilical cord is quite important as well. This is referred to as funic presentation. The umbilical cord is considered to have a funic presentation if the cord is pointing down towards the lower segment of the uterus and the cervical opening. While the position of the umbilical cord can change over time, if after 32 weeks the umbilical cord still is considered to be in funic presentation, it can create great risk for umbilical cord prolapse. A c-section is often required in circumstances such as these

Umbilical Cord Complications

Knots of the Umbilical Cord – When there is a knot in the umbilical cord, it can create great danger for the baby. This occurs due to the cord twisting itself into a knot. While many knots are looser and may come undone, it is the tight knots that can serious. A true umbilical knot can prevent nutrients and oxygen from reaching the baby. If this is not caught in time, babies can die from a true umbilical cord knot due to hypoxia and lack of blood flow. Other babies will survive, but may suffer from brain injuries such as cerebral palsy or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) due to hypoxia.  

Nuchal Cord – Nuchal cord refers to a complication in which the umbilical cord becomes wrapped around the baby’s neck. causing oxygen deprivation. Nuchal cord can put the baby at great risk for injuries such as spastic cerebral palsy due to the oxygen deprivation the baby experiences. Nuchal cord is not always dangerous, as the cord may be loose, causing no problems. However, all cases of nuchal cord should be identified and treated (if needed) in a timely manner to prevent birth injuries from occurring. 

Umbilical Cord Prolapse – This is actually the most dangerous type of umbilical cord complication. This occurs when the umbilical cord falls into the cervical opening ahead of the baby instead of behind the baby. This is incredibly dangerous as the baby will inevitably clamp the umbilical cord as he or she is delivered, creating a partial or complete restriction of oxygen. This type of complication is quite serious, and if not managed properly can result in serious birth injuries such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), or cerebral palsy. 

Complications of Umbilical Cord Problems

If not identified and treated appropriately and in a timely manner, umbilical cord problems can lead to complications such as the following:

  • Seizures
  • Death
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
  • Developmental delays
  • Learning disabilities
  • Impaired cognition
  • Hypoxic or anoxic brain injury

Birth Injuries and Complications Due to Medical Malpractice

While not all umbilical cord complications are due to errors made by the medical team, serious birth injuries are often the result of medical malpractice. This is because, many of these umbilical cord complications can be managed and treated to prevent injuries from occurring. Examples of medical malpractice due to the improper management of umbilical cord problems include the following:

  • Failure to perform a c-section in the setting of funic presentation after 32 weeks, if it leads to injury
  • Failure to recognize and investigate signs of potential umbilical cord complications (i.e. decreased fetal movement or a non reassuring heart rate during labor and delivery)
  • Failure to investigate a nonreassuring heart rate at any point during pregnancy
  • Failure to identify and respond to intrauterine growth restrictions (IUGR) which can be due to problems with the umbilical cord
  • Failure to detect umbilical cord problems on ultrasound
  • Failure to intervene in the setting of a tight nuchal cord, leading to birth injuries 
  • Failure to properly handle umbilical cord prolapse during labor and delivery

Umbilical Cord Injuries Due to Oregon Medical Malpractice: Ask Us For Help

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.

For a free case evaluation


(541) 385-1999 in Bend, Oregon
(503) 479-3646 in Portland, Oregon
(612) 444-3374 in Minnesota

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