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Failure to Monitor and Timely Treat Anti-Kell Antibodies Can Cause Serious Birth Injury

Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn, also known as anti-Kell, is one of the most common causes of severe hemolytic (abnormal blood) diseases of newborns.  Anti-Kell is a condition in which the antibodies in a pregnant woman's blood cross the placenta and destroy her baby's red blood cells, resulting in severe anemia.  This condition results when there is a mismatch between a mother's and baby's blood group Kell antigens.  Antigens are substances that cause the production of an antibody that binds to the antigen in order to damage, neutralize or kill it.  According to studies, approximately 90% of the population are Kell negative and 10% are Kell positive.  Because a small percentage of the population are homozygous for the Kell antibodies, roughly 5% of the babies born to a Kell negative mother are Kell positive.  As noted above, if the maternal antibodies to Kell are transferred to the fetus across the placenta, the antibodies can cause severe anemia by interfering with the early proliferation of red blood cells.  Hydrops fetalis, characterized by accumulation of fluid or edema in the heart or lungs, can also result.  

Typically, at about 17-20 weeks gestation, every mother undergoes antenatal blood screening tests that test for the presence of anti-Kell antibodies.  A positive finding requires a referral to a specialist for assessment, management and treatment.  The standard of care for the management of this condition calls for serial ultrasounds and Doppler examination to detect signs of fetal anemia such as increased blood flow velocities.  In severe cases, intrauterine fetal blood transfusions are conducted to mitigate the effects of anemia.  Failure to closely monitor and treat this condition will often lead the birth of a profoundly anemic child who suffers from chronic lung and heart issues, babies who have experienced a global development delay or even death. 

STSW lawyers are currently handling a case in which it is alleged that a mother's obstetrician and maternal fetal medicine expert were aware of the presence of maternal anti-Kell antibodies and failed to closely the mother through the use of serial ultrasounds and Dopplers.  As a result, the child became severely anemic, developed hydrops fetalis, required at least 6 intrauterine blood transfusions and was born with significant lung complications requiring him to remain on a ventilator for the first 2 years of his life and likely into the future.  He has also been diagnosed with a global development delay and requires feeding exclusively through a feeding tube. 

Children born with a severe hemolytic disease require 24-hour, round-the-clock nursing care, which in turn, costs hundreds of thousands of dollars for the child's parents.  Experienced attorneys who understand these cases are required.  At STSW, our medical malpractice lawyers are intimately familiar with hemolytic diseases of the newborn and the negligence / medical mistakes that can be made resulting in the exacerbation of this condition.  Our lawyers routinely handle these cases in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas and surrounding counties.  Please call us at (410) 385-2225 for a free consultation. 

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