Understanding Liability in a Medical Malpractice Case When Negligent Care Leading to Neonatal Sepsis Causes Your Injuries
Many people are familiar with the term “sepsis”. Sepsis is a type of infection in the blood stream that can be incredibly dangerous. While sepsis can occur in any individual, it can be incredibly dangerous for newborns. While people may not think of it being common for newborns to have an infection at birth or just after, it is more common than one may think. An infection may start out mild, but it left untreated it can progress to sepsis, or even septic shock. Both are life-threatening, especially for a newborn baby. Negligent care leading to neonatal sepsis causing birth injuries can result in catastrophic and permanent injuries that could be avoided. If this happened to your baby, ask our medical malpractice lawyer in Oregon and Minnesota for help.
How Do Newborns Get Sepsis?
There are many ways a newborn may acquire sepsis. One common way is through transmission from the mother. This is referred to as vertical transmission. In this case, the mother spreads the infection to the baby during the birthing process or shortly before. Another way that a newborn can contract an infection is through contact with people after birth, including healthcare providers, caregivers, or even the environment around them. This is referred to as horizontal transmission.
Is Neonatal Sepsis Preventable?
In some cases, neonatal sepsis can be entirely preventable. This is because, if a mother’s infection is diagnosed pre-delivery, she can be treated with antibiotics prior to delivery to prevent transmission of the infection to the baby. Additionally, there are some instances in which a c-section may be performed to prevent the transmission of infection of the mother to the baby. Women are routinely tested during their prenatal period at the beginning of their pregnancy for some infections, with testing for others closer to their delivery (i.e. group B strep).
This allows healthcare providers time to adequately manage and treat the infection. Additionally, through the use of standard precautions (i.e hand washing, using gloves, etc.) as well as maintaining a clean environment, there are cases of neonatal sepsis that can be prevented. When a healthcare provider fails to do any of these things and the infection could have been entirely preventable, it is considered negligence if there is harm to the infant.
What are the Dangers of Neonatal Sepsis?
As mentioned above, neonatal sepsis is incredibly dangerous which is why negligent care leading to neonatal sepsis can be medical malpractice. Sepsis is dangerous for anyone, but a neonate often will struggle to fight the infection more than an adult or older child. Sepsis can cause many serious complications, some that may be permanent and irreversible. Examples of these complications include the following:
- Septic shock
- Respiratory distress
- Difficulty feeding
- Neonatal seizures
- Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
- Cerebral palsy
These are just a few of the many potential complications that can occur if a newborn acquires sepsis and it is not treated properly.
What Types of Organisms Can Cause Neonatal Sepsis?
There are many different types of organisms that can cause sepsis in a neonate. Most commonly, different types of bacteria are the cause of sepsis, but sepsis can be caused by organisms that are not bacteria, such as fungi or viruses. Examples of organisms that can cause sepsis include the following:
- Staphylococcus Aureus
- Group B Streptococcus
- Herpes Simplex Virus
- Coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNs)
Are There Any Risk Factors For Sepsis?
There are many risk factors that may put a baby at risk for neonatal sepsis. These risk factors include the following:
- Chorioamnionitis – an infection of the fetal membranes and placenta
- Presence of Group B strep
- Preterm birth
- Premature rupture of the membranes (PROM)
- Forceps use during delivery
- Extended hospital stays
- Use of IV catheters or other types of catheters
- Unsanitary hospital conditions
How Would a Person Know That a Newborn has Neonatal Sepsis?
There are many signs and symptoms that may indicate that a baby has an infection. Any sign of infection should be taken seriously. Examples of possible signs and symptoms include the following:
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
- Poor feeding
- Enlarged liver
- Abdominal distension
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Low Apgar score at birth
- Low temperature (hypothermia) or fever
- Perfusion issues
- Low muscle tone
- Amniotic fluid that is meconium stained prior to delivery, indicating fetal distress
- High heart rate (tachycardia) during labor and delivery
These are just a few of the many signs of potential neonatal sepsis. It is a healthcare providers job to take these signs and symptoms seriously and act accordingly. Appropriate testing should be conducted, and if sepsis is suspected, drug therapy (i.e. antibiotics) should be initiated while waiting for the results.
How is Neonatal Sepsis Diagnosed?
If neonatal sepsis is suspected, appropriate testing should be performed. Examples of testing that can diagnose neonatal sepsis include the following:
- Blood cultures
- Blood work to check for an elevated presence of white blood cells (CBC)
- Blood work to check for inflammatory markers and other marks that may indicate infection (Procalcitonin, CRP)
- Chest x-ray
- Spinal tap (lumbar puncture)
- Stool cultures
- Urine cultures
- Cultures if there are any other possible sources of infection (i.e drainage from the eye or a wound)
How Can Neonatal Sepsis be Caused by Negligence?
There are many ways that neonatal sepsis can be caused by medical malpractice. Some of the most common examples of negligent care leading to neonatal sepsis include the following:
- Failing to test for common infections, such as Group B Streptococcus prior to delivery
- Failing to treat a mother’s infection prior to delivery
- Failing to perform a c-section when appropriate on a mother that had her water broken over 6 hours prior
- Failing to identify and treat an infection in a newborn, allowing it to progress to sepsis
- Performing a c-section without using sterile technique
- Failing to ensure the delivery room is sanitary
- Failing to appropriately administer antibiotics or other drugs to treat a suspected infection in a timely manner
- Failing to appropriately treat sepsis in a neonate
- Failing to adhere to standard precautions prior to touching a newborn (i.e hand washing, wearing gloves when indicated)
- Failing to deliver a baby within 24 hours after the mother’s water breaks, placing the baby at greater risk for infection
Ask for Help in Oregon or Minnesota if Negligent Care Leading to Neonatal Sepsis Harmed Your Baby
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.