Understanding Neonatal Sepsis from Oregon Medical Malpractice
Neonatal sepsis is a type of infection in the bloodstream. It is very dangerous for the infant and can cause severe complications, including death. While there are instances in which infections may be unavoidable, there are times when infections are caused due to a provider’s error. A few examples of errors leading to sepsis can include lack of testing of the mother before delivery, failing to treat the infection in the mother and/or newborn, and failure to provide a clean hospital environment. That means an infant’s death might not just be any type of death, but a wrongful death due to Oregon medical malpractice. Even if an infant does not die, it could still result in serious personal injuries and damages to the baby.
This is why any case of neonatal sepsis should be reviewed by our lawyers at Kuhlman Law. Our Oregon medical malpractice lawyers handle cases where infants are seriously injured or wrongfully killed due to the reckless, careless, or downright negligent actions or inactions of a healthcare provider. This includes instances of neonatal sepsis which become damaging or deadly, and result in very serious conditions such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, and other types of damaging conditions. If your baby had an infection and was diagnosed with HIE, cerebral palsy, or any other condition, ask our experienced lawyers how we can help you today.
What is Sepsis?
Sepsis is a severe type of bacterial infection that is present in the blood stream. As it is in the blood stream, it has the ability to spread throughout the body, making the newborn very ill. Sepsis can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and many other pathogens. Sepsis in any person can be quite serious and life threatening, but especially in a newborn with a compromised immune system. If left untreated it can lead to a serious condition called septic shock. Septic shock carries even more complications, including wrongful death from multiple organ failure.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Neonatal Sepsis?
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Changes in vital signs (i.e. decreased or increased heart rate)
- Abdominal distension
- Bowel changes, such as decrease in the number of bowel movements or diarrhea
- Reduced oral intake
- Distressed breathing
- Decreased muscle tone
- Cyanosis (blue-tinge skin) or pale skin
- Decrease in urine output
- Appearance of a rash
- Apnea, and
- Other odd or abnormal behavior that is not customary.
Modes of Transmission
Sepsis can be transmitted to a neonate in one of two ways.
Vertical transmission – This is when a mother who is infected before birth transmits the infection to the baby just before or during delivery of the baby
Horizontal transmission – In this case, an infection is transmitted to the baby after birth. This infection can be transmitted through medical personnel, contact with their parents and other caregivers, or environmental contaminants
What Are the Risk Factors for Neonatal Sepsis Prior to Delivery?
Generally, the risks are different types of bacterial or viral infections that are already present. Even if it is not an infection, just the presence of these conditions could be very serious. This includes the following:
- Group B streptococcus (GBS) during pregnancy
- Water breaking 18 hours or more after onset of labor
- Infection of the placenta and amniotic fluid (Chorioamnionitis)
What Are the Risk Factors for Neonatal Sepsis After Delivery?
Even if a healthy baby is delivered, there can still be very serious complications after birth which include the following:
- Hospital stays that are extended
- Presence of an IV catheter for an extended period of time
- Need for NICU intervention
- Signs of trauma or injuries, and
- Other damages.
How is Neonatal Sepsis Diagnosed in Newborns?
It can be diagnosed with many different diagnostic tests. Examples of these tests include the following:
- Complete blood count, to measure white blood cell count, platelets, hemoglobin and many other components
- Blood cultures – used to identify if any type of infection is present in the blood stream
- Spinal tap – used to test for the presence of bacteria in the spinal cord
- C-reactive protein test – measures the amount of C-reactive protein that is produced by the liver. A high level of C-reactive protein can indicate inflammation
- Chest x-ray
- Urine culture
How is Neonatal Sepsis Treated?
It is usually treated with the following
- Intravenous antibiotics, especially if the infant is four weeks of age or less
- Antiviral medications if the cause of the infection is viral
- Supportive care (i.e. oxygen, IV fluids, etc.) as indicated
What Are the Possible Complications if Not Treated?
- Organ damage (i.e lung, heart, kidneys, etc.)
- Brain damage
- Hearing loss
- Vision loss
- Cerebral Palsy
- Cognitive disabilities
- Septic shock
- Respiratory distress
- Wrongful death
- Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
Neonatal Sepsis Related Medical Malpractice in Oregon
Neonatal sepsis can be caused by medical malpractice in a variety of ways. Additionally, medical malpractice can occur when physicians and other healthcare providers fail to take necessary steps when an infection arises. Examples of this include the following:
- Failing to treat a mother’s infection prior to birth
- Delivering a baby over 24 hours after a mother’s water breaks, placing the baby at risk for infection
- Failing to perform a swab to test for Group B streptococcus (GBS) during weeks 35-37 in a mother’s pregnancy. If it is known that a mother has GBS, antibiotics can be administered during labor to prevent the bacterial infection from being passed on to their infant
- Failing to identify an infection in a newborn
- Failing to appropriately treat an infection in a newborn, leading to sepsis
- Failing to keep the hospital environment clean, especially during labor
- Failing to perform a c-section (when indicated) on a mother more than 6 hours after her water breaks
- Allowing prolonged labor, increasing the likelihood of infection
- Failing to move the baby to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in a timely manner if signs of sepsis arise
- Failing to provide a sanitary and clean delivery room
- Failing to provide a sterile operating room for a c-section
- Failing to administer antibiotics in a newborn suspected of having sepsis while awaiting test confirmation, and
- Other concerning mistakes, negligent acts, or omissions.
Was Your Child Injured Due to the Negligence of a Healthcare Provider in Oregon? We Can 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.