Neonatologists, NICUs and medical malpractice

After an OB/GYN doctor handles delivery, care of the baby is normally turned over to a pediatrician. When a baby is born with a brain injury or other serious medical condition, though, a neonatologist takes over.

Neonatologists are doctors who have completed three years of pediatric residency training after medical school, and another three years of fellowship training in the intensive care of newborns. Neonatology is a hospital-based medical practice focusing on caring for babies with complex medical conditions from birth through the age of 28 days.

When a baby is admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), a neonatologist is the captain of the ship. The standard of care requires comprehensive monitoring of the baby’s status, close communication with the nursing staff, appropriate diagnostic orders including lab work and radiology studies, and orders that are necessary for the baby’s stability, growth, and development.

Some common issues that come up in neonatology medical malpractice claims include:

Failure to diagnose infections.

Newborns can have a variety of serious infections that could lead to cerebral palsy, brain injury or death. With good prenatal care, the obstetrician (OB/GYN) is often able to prevent infection at birth. There are still some situations, though, where a baby is born with an infection that must be quickly identified and medically treated by a neonatologist.

• Failure to monitor and treat breathing and respiratory issues.

It’s common for babies born with serious medical problems to have difficulty breathing on their own. Some require breathing assistance through insertion of a breathing tube (intubation), which in some circumstances must be placed on an emergency basis. Once the baby is intubated, the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels must be monitored closely to prevent acidosis that can lead to brain damage.

Before removing the breathing tube (extubation), the baby must meet certain criteria and the healthcare team needs to be ready to respond immediately if the baby’s oxygen saturation plummets. When these care issues are mismanaged, the baby can be left with a permanent brain injury.

• Failure to identify and treat neonatal seizures.

There can be many different reasons for a baby in the NICU to have seizures, but one of the most common ones is hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a type of birth-related brain injury.

Seizures can cause additional injuries to the baby and must be properly diagnosed and treated medically.

Failure to identify HIE.

Sometimes a birth-related brain injury is immediately identified in the delivery room, but other times it’s not. It’s important for neonatologists to correctly spot signs of HIE, because medical studies have shown that cooling the baby through hypothermia therapy can help minimize brain injury.

If your baby has been seriously injured because of poor neonatology medical care, then contact a top-rated, skilled Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for help in evaluating 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.