Excessive Use of Vacuum Extractor Causes Cerebral Palsy

Article posted on:01/21/2009

An Illinois mother recently settled a medical malpractice case against a hospital, their family practitioner and a nurse for $15,350,000 after the family practitioner attempted 18 times, unsuccessfully, to deliver her child using a vacuum extractor. During the course of these unsuccessful attempts, the baby became distressed and ultimately an emergency cesarean section was required to deliver the boy. Following delivery, the boy was diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy and mental retardation. He requires the use of a wheel chair as well. In the lawsuit, the mother alleged that the family doctor negligently caused brain damage to the child through his repeated use of the extractor; that a nurse who was present failed to properly serve her role as a patient advocate by insisting that the physician stop using the vacuum extractor; and that the hospital failed to exercise reasonable care in evaluating the doctor's competency to perform safe vacuum deliveries at the hospital.

Cerebral palsy is a complex medical condition that ranges in severity from mild to severe.  Typically, those afflicted with cerebral palsy have an inability to control their motor function; i.e., they lack adequate muscle control and coordination.  Common symptoms that can lead to a diagnosis of cerebral palsy include:  involuntary movements of limbs; muscle spasticity (tightness), inability to walk properly (gait); seizures, breathing problems or difficulty swallowing; bladder and bowel continence issues; learning disabilities, and the impairment of one or more senses (sight, hearing, etc.).  More severe cases may also result in a child having difficulty speaking. 

In many instances, cerebral palsy is preventable.  Perhaps the greatest risk factor associated with cerebral palsy is a lack of oxygen flowing to the child (asphyxia) during the birthing process.  This can occur if the umbilical cord becomes wrapped around the infant's neck, or if the infant's head becomes stuck during the delivery.  In essence, when an infant is deprived of oxygen for a prolonged period of time, brain cells die, causing injury.

At STSW, our lawyers believe that most birth injuries resulting in cerebral palsy are preventable with proper medical care and attention.  Whether the complication be due a drop in the fetal heart rate, high blood pressure for the mother, shoulder dystocia, the umbilical cord wrapped around the neck or problems with baby's position/presentation (i.e., breech), our lawyers believe that physicians should be equipped and prepared to timely treat these potentially life threatening complications to the child/mother.  Regardless, babies born with cerebral palsy more often than not require a lifetime of care and round-the-clock medical attention and surveillance.  As these babies grow into infancy, it is imperative that they receive regular and continued evaluations from a bevy health care providers in a variety of specialties, including but not limited to:  neurology, gastroenterology, pediatrics, orthopedics, and physical medicine and rehabilitation.  This health care can be exorbitant and financially ruinous for parents trying to provide the best possible care for their children.  At STSW, our attorneys are experienced in dealing with all of these various types of health care providers and we recognize the importance of having our clients evaluated by such experts to truly ascertain the full extent of a child's injuries.    If you or a loved one believe your child was the victim of medical negligence in the Baltimore or Washington D.C. area that has led to the baby developing cerebral palsy or other neurological injury, call our lawyers at 410-385-2225 for a free consultation or visit our website to set up a free consultation.  In fact, we regularly obtain million dollar plus settlements and verdicts for our clients in medical malpractice cases, and have been trial counsel in some of the largest multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements in the area.