If your baby has been left with ongoing health issues following a birth injury, please contact us for immediate legal advice. We understand just how devastating this situation is, but there is help available. We can secure you the funds needed for treatment, therapy and care costs.
Birth injuries in newborns
Birth injuries in newborns can cause permanent complications, leading to ongoing health issues as the child grows older. This is upsetting for all concerned and will be all the more so if the birth injury occurred as a result of medical negligence. Types of birth injuries in newborns include:
- Brachial plexus injury
- Hypoxic ischemic brain injury at birth
- Anoxic brain injury at birth
Brachial plexus injury
The brachial plexus is a group of nerves that provide sensation and movement in the arms. The nerves attach to the spinal cord in the neck and extend down either side of the body into the arms. During a difficult birth, the baby’s brachial plexus nerves can be damaged, causing reduced function in one arm. Obstetric brachial plexus injury is also known as Erb’s Palsy.
What causes obstetric brachial plexus injury?
Typically, an obstetric brachial plexus injury happens when the baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone – a problem known as shoulder dystocia. When this situation arises, it is vital that the baby is delivered quickly, or brain damage could occur due to a lack of oxygen. Medical practitioners may therefore pull and twist the baby in an attempt to free the shoulder and deliver him/her safely. In turn, this may damage the brachial plexus nerves. The issue will become apparent shortly after birth when the baby manifests reduced function in one arm.
An obstetric brachial plexus injury may also happen following a breech birth or any other kind of difficult birth.
Will a baby recover from brachial plexus injury?
It is difficult to say whether a full recovery will be made. The prognosis depends on the extent of nerve damage.
The majority of babies sustain a type of brachial plexus injury known as neuropraxia. This is when the nerves are stretched but are not torn. Most babies make a full recovery from neuropraxia, although it can take up to a year for function to be considered normal. Even then, some muscle weakness may remain. During this time, medical practitioners will likely advise parents to perform physiotherapy on their child to improve the range of movement.
Along with neuropraxia, the types of brachial plexus injury are:
- Axonotmesis – where the nerves are torn but the sheath around the nerves remains intact
- Neurotmesis – where the nerves are torn but are still attached to the spinal cord
- Nerve root avulsion – where the nerves are torn and come away from the spinal cord
A baby who suffers nerve root avulsion is unlikely to make a recovery, meaning the loss of function in their arm will be permanent.
Brachial plexus injury medical negligence claims
There are certain factors that increase the risk of a brachial plexus injury. This includes a larger than average baby and a mother who has experienced shoulder dystocia in the past. Should these risk factors be present, medical practitioners should manage the birth accordingly. This might mean performing an elective caesarean section, rather than proceeding with a potentially dangerous vaginal delivery.
If medical practitioners fail to identify these risk factors – or fail to act on them – the level of care can be deemed substandard. If this causes a baby to suffer a brachial plexus injury, there may be grounds for a medical negligence claim.
Brachial plexus injury compensation
If your baby has been diagnosed with a brachial plexus injury, please contact our medical negligence solicitors for legal advice. We can explain whether your child’s brachial plexus injury was unavoidable – or whether it was caused by medical negligence.
If there are grounds for a claim, we can help you claim compensation to cover the costs of corrective surgery and rehabilitation. Compensation is also awarded for the way in which your child’s life has been adversely affected. This can be significant, especially if the injury is likely to be permanent.
Hypoxic ischemic brain injury at birth
Hypoxic ischemic brain injury at birth is known more specifically as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). ‘Hypoxic’ means a shortage of oxygen in the blood. ‘Ischemic’ means a shortage of blood supply to the brain. ‘Encephalopathy’ means brain damage. Therefore, hypoxic ischemic brain injury at birth is when a baby does not receive enough oxygen just before, during or after birth, resulting in brain damage.
What causes HIE?
HIE is caused by any scenario in which a baby is deprived of oxygen for too long. There is a list of potential complications that may arise near to or during birth, all of which can lead to HIE if they are not managed properly. Causes of HIE include:
- Uterine rupture
- Placenta previa
- Placental abruption
- The misuse of induction drugs/anaesthesia during labour
- Pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure in the mother)
- Umbilical cord complications
- Premature birth
- Neo-natal infection
- Large baby
- Difficult foetal position – e.g. breech birth
- Brain bleed
- Prolonged or difficult labour
It is the duty of medical professionals to recognise and manage these complications. Typically, HIE can be avoided with the correct medical intervention. For example, a baby showing signs of foetal distress during labour should be closely monitored. If there is no improvement, an emergency caesarean section should be carried out straightaway. Otherwise, the baby is at risk of suffering brain damage.
Will a baby recover from HIE?
The outlook for a baby who suffers HIE depends on the extent of brain damage, and the speed at which treatment is given. The severity of brain damage can range from mild to profound. A mild case may not compromise the child’s quality of life. A profound case, however, can lead to a number of upsetting outcomes, including:
- Cerebral palsy
- Visual impairment
- Hearing impairment
- Organ dysfunction
- Developmental delays
Often, the full extent of a hypoxic ischemic brain injury at birth does not become apparent until the child is three or four years old. In the most serious of cases, HIE will be fatal.
However, the effects of HIE can be limited with timely treatment. This is required within six hours of delivery. This involves hypothermia treatment, whereby the baby’s brain is cooled, halting the progress of the brain damage. If a baby is left with complications, ongoing therapy will almost certainly be needed.
Hypoxic ischemic brain injury at birth medical negligence claims
If a hypoxic ischemic brain injury at birth occurs, there is a very real possibility that it can be attributed to medical negligence. This is because HIE is largely preventable – so long as medical practitioners take the correct course of action. This begins with the diagnosis and management of obstetric complications. For instance, if a mother has a uterine rupture, this must be diagnosed immediately and an emergency c-section performed.
Often, HIE occurs because medical practitioners fail to:
- Diagnose complications that arise during pregnancy or birth, and/or
- Act on complications that arise during pregnancy or birth
It is also essential that medical practitioners recognise HIE shortly after the baby is delivered. This can be achieved by a thorough clinical assessment. This ensures cooling treatment can be started straightaway, limiting the extent of brain damage.
If a pregnancy, labour or delivery is poorly managed, or HIE is not quickly diagnosed, there may be grounds for a medical negligence claim.
Hypoxic ischemic brain injury compensation
Hypoxic ischemic brain injury at birth can lead to devastating side effects, particularly as the child grows older. The cost of care and physical therapy can be expensive, and will probably be required in the long-term. Compensation can help cover these costs, and can provide some redress for the terrible emotional trauma that has been caused.
If you want to know more about taking legal action for a hypoxic ischemic brain injury that occurred at birth, please contact our medical negligence solicitors. These are specialised claims and it is vital that you have a knowledgeable legal expert on your side.
Anoxic brain injury at birth
An anoxic brain injury at birth is very similar to a hypoxic ischemic brain injury at birth. The difference is that ‘anoxic’ means an absence of oxygen. So, rather than having a shortage of oxygen, a baby has been deprived of oxygen altogether.
What causes anoxic brain injury at birth?
An anoxic brain injury at birth might happen if the umbilical cord is pinched or kinked, or has come away from the uterus wall. Other causes include:
- Maternal illness or infection
- Poorly managed gestational diabetes
- Difficult or complicated labour
- Uterine rupture
- Low amniotic fluid
Will a baby recover from anoxic brain injury at birth?
Like hypoxic ischemic brain injuries, the outlook for a baby who suffers an anoxic brain injury at birth depends on various factors. In particular, the prognosis will depend on the duration of oxygen deprivation and the speed at which treatment is administered.
If the extent of brain damage is severe, it is unlikely that the cells will recover. If so, the baby will suffer long-term disabilities. This can include cerebral palsy, seizures, developmental disorders and visual/hearing impairment.
Anoxic brain injury at birth medical negligence claims
If a mother has an at-risk pregnancy, she should be closely monitored to ensure both she and the unborn baby remain well. If there is any indication that the birth could become complicated, or a medical emergency arises (such as uterine rupture), a caesarean section should be carried out. The same is true if issues occur during a vaginal delivery, which could in turn put the baby at risk of anoxic brain injury.
Any failure on the part of medical practitioners to monitor and manage a pregnancy/birth will amount to a substandard level of care. If this causes a baby to suffer an anoxic brain injury, there will be grounds for a medical negligence claim.
Compensation for birth injuries in newborns
If your baby has suffered harm because of a poorly managed pregnancy or birth, please contact our medical negligence solicitors. We understand just how devastating it is to be in this situation. The birth of your child should be a happy occasion. Instead, you face the distressing reality that your baby has suffered an injury. Where brain injuries are concerned, your life will be changed forever.
We appreciate that nothing can undo the pain and confusion that you are experiencing. However, a medical negligence claim can help you understand what went wrong and why. A compensation settlement will also ensure that you have the funds needed to pay for any treatment, rehabilitation or care that your child requires. This will be important, especially if your child has ongoing health issues.
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