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Preventable Birth Injuries in the United States: Occurrence Rate, Causes, Most Common Injuries, and Prognosis

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Chicago IL birth injury lawyersExpecting parents often imagine what it will be like to hold their baby for the first time, ponder what their first words will be, and may even envision the adult their child will eventually become. Sadly, some parents never see their hopes and dreams come to fruition. All that they had hoped for is taken away by a physician who made a horrible, permanent, irreversible, and preventable mistake. The injuries sustained by infants during these incidents are known as birth injuries.

Rate of Birth Injuries in the United States

Out of every 1,000 babies born in the United States, six to eight sustain an injury during birth. To put that into perspective, nearly four million babies are born in the U.S. each year. Of those, 24,000 to 28,000 sustain a birth injury. That is more than 2,000 infants per month, or approximately three each hour. So, while at first glance, the rate may seem inconsequential (just two percent of all births), the numbers show that an alarming number of parents must face heartbreak on what should be the happiest day of their lives.

Most Common Causes of Birth Injuries

While there are many ways that a birth injury can occur – everything from a nurse failing to notify a doctor when they notice an infant in distress during labor to a doctor dropping a baby on the floor as it is delivered – some causes and factors are more common than others, including:  

  • Abnormal presentation during birth (i.e. breech presentation);
  • Instrument use during delivery (particularly forceps used midcavity);
  • Large-for-date infants that weigh 8 pounds or more;
  • Premature birth;
  • Complications during previous pregnancies;
  • Overdue pregnancies;
  • Abnormal pelvis size or shape in mother;
  • Excessive weight gain/obesity in mother.

While the physician may not be directly responsible for some of these factors, they do have the power and ability to spot a potential problem and take preventative measures. For example, a mother with a breech baby should be detected and managed as she approaches her due date. Her doctor may ask her to come in more frequently for monitoring to see if the baby turns. If breech presentation continues, she may be scheduled for a Cesarean section to prevent injury to her baby.

Common Injuries and Their Prognosis

Nearly all birth injuries are considered catastrophic injuries, and they almost always have permanent effects. Stillbirth and birth after death, often caused by lack of oxygen to the brain, is one of the many devastating injuries. However, there are also others that can greatly alter the life of the child and their parents. Some of the most common include:

  • Brachial plexus injuries –Includes both Erb palsy (most common) and entire brachial plexus. Long-term complications may include bony deformities, impaired growth of limb, muscle atrophy, joint contractures, and more.
  • Cranial nerve injuries –Carries a mortality rate of 10-15% for unilateral lesions and a 50% mortality for bilateral lesions. Surviving patients may fully recover within the first year of life, but others may need long-term ventilator support.
  • Spinal cord injury –Extent of paralysis and prognosis depends on the location of the injury. Can range anywhere from complete paralysis, which may lead to severe respiratory problems, bowel and bladder problems, and more. Higher spine injuries also increase the risk of infant mortality.
  • Laryngeal nerve injury –Typically results in hoarseness that resolves with time, but it may also lead to respiratory distress or asphyxia, both of which are associated with infant mortality and long-term complications from oxygen deprivation.
  • Fractures and bone displacement – Typically occurs to the clavicle (collarbone), legs, and/or shoulders. While the infant may make a full recovery, they may be at long-term risk for deformity or other long-term complications.
  • Abdominal ruptures – Hepatic and/or intraperitoneal bleeds often result in infant mortality. Those that do survive need extensive medical interventions, including blood transfusion and surgery.

Why Obtain Compensation for a Birth Injury?

While compensation can never restore your family to what it was meant to be, it can help ensure that medical bills are covered, and that your child’s long-term needs are met. For those with children who have brain injuries, spinal injuries, and developmental delays, this may be especially important. It secures treatment for your child, long after you are gone. Unfortunately, proving that the doctor made an error and holding them accountable is not an easy task. This is where our attorneys come in.

At Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C., we fight for their rights of families affected by birth injuries. We strive for justice and work to ensure that all negligent parties are held accountable. Skilled, committed, and compassionate to their struggles, we aggressively pursue the most compensation possible so they can have peace of mind. Ask how our Chicago, Illinois birth injury attorneys can help with your birth injury case today. Call us at 312-553-4900.

Sources:

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/jaundice

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/980112-overview#a1 

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/births.htm

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