Closed claims study shows most common fetal distress mistakes and injuries

One of the big insurance companies recently released some information from its secret closed claims database about neonatal and birth injury claims that were closed from 2012 through 2018. These findings are interesting on many levels, including identification of the most common types of negligence in labor and delivery cases:

• 35% of all claims alleges a delay in treatment of fetal distress.

Fetal distress is an emergency medical condition where the unborn baby isn’t getting enough oxygen and nutrients. According to the claims database study, the most common reasons alleged in claims for delayed treatment of fetal distress include:

(1) Nurses don’t identify the fetal heart rate tracing on the monitor as showing metabolic acidemia (a sign that carbon dioxide is building up in the baby’s bloodstream because of a lack of oxygen).

(2) Nurses saw that the fetal monitoring showed metabolic acidemia but didn’t contact a doctor (OB/GYN) quickly enough to report that emergency finding.

(3) The OB/GYN didn’t go to the hospital to see the pregnant mom once notified by a nurse about a dangerous fetal heart tracing showing metabolic acidemia.

(4) Once the OB/GYN was aware of a non-reassuring fetal heart monitor tracing, the doctor didn’t order an emergency C-Section.

(5) A delay by hospital personnel in preparing an operating room for a C-Section once it was ordered.

(6) Using forceps or vacuum extraction to delivery a baby that had a non-reassuring fetal heart rate tracing, rather than an emergency C-Section.

• 76% of all claims for babies (neonatal patients) had a final diagnosis of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and severe birth asphyxia (a brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen). HIE is a brain injury that is often called cerebral palsy when it happens around the time of birth.

• 4% of all claims for babies had a final diagnosis of separation of the placenta and hemorrhaging (bleeding).

• 3% of all claims for babies had a final diagnosis of umbilical cord compression. When the cord is compressed, it cuts off blood flow and oxygen from the mother to the baby who’s still in the womb.

• 3% of all claims for babies had a final diagnosis of chorioamnionitis that harmed the fetus/baby. This is a bacterial infection of the protective layers around the baby inside the womb.

• 3% of all claims for babies had a final diagnosis of subdural or cerebral hemorrhage. These are brain bleeds that may be caused by birth trauma or allowing the mom to labor too long on Pitocin (excessive uterine contractions can cause brain injury and hemorrhaging).

• 3% of all claims for babies had a final diagnosis of meconium aspiration syndrome. When a fetus/baby had a bowel movement in the womb before delivery, it’s called meconium. Meconium aspiration syndrome describes a situation where the baby breathes in the meconium stool. It can cause a host of respiratory and other issues.

• 2% of all claims for babies had a final diagnosis of fetal blood loss. This can happen for different reasons, including mom-baby Rh incompatibility. Good modern prenatal care, including blood work, means that this possibility should always be detected and treated before birth.

I represented a family in a case where a Cypress, Texas area OB/GYN clinic failed to obtain the appropriate prenatal blood work and the mom and baby had incompatible Rh factors. As a result, when the mom’s blood supply mixed with the baby’s during labor and delivery, the mom’s immune system destroyed 85% of the baby’s red blood cells. That massive blood loss caused the baby to develop cerebral palsy.

If your baby was seriously injured because of poor prenatal, labor and delivery, OB/GYN, or hospital care, contact a top-rated experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice and birth injury lawyer for help in pursuing your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.