Could NICU Staff Have Injured Your Newborn?
Babies who are born prematurely or with medical issues may need to go to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Newborns in the NICU require close monitoring and skilled, careful treatment. Medical errors on the part of NICU staff can have major, life-altering consequences for the child, including permanent brain damage.
What Is NICU Medical Malpractice?
NICU staff may fall below the standard of care and commit medical malpractice in a number of ways, including:
- Delay in resuscitation: A baby who fails to breathe properly after birth will require resuscitation. This may involve reviving the infant from a state of unconsciousness; inserting a tube through the nose or mouth into the trachea to maintain an open airway (intubation); and administering surfactant (a necessary substance produced by the lungs) so the baby’s lungs can expand properly and take in air. A delay in resuscitation can cause the child’s brain to be oxygen deprived. This can lead to serious complications, including damage to the baby’s brain and heart.
- Medical mistakes in resuscitation, intubation, and surfactant therapy: These treatments require highly-trained medical professionals who should be present in case of emergency at any high-risk birth. Medical errors at this stage can cause serious injuries to the child, including hypoxia (oxygen deprivation). A baby can be injured when intubation takes too long, the tube is improperly placed, or surfactant is improperly administered.
- Failure to adequately monitor the newborn: Once resuscitation procedures are begun on a newborn, careful monitoring of blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, and oxygen levels is critical. NICU staff should use pulse oximetry (a sensor on the baby’s finger or toe) to monitor oxygen saturation; an umbilical arterial catheter to continuously monitor blood pressure and obtain blood samples; a blood pressure cuff to automatically check the baby’s blood pressure; and a cardiopulmonary monitor (connected to the child with small, adhesive pads on the chest) to track heart rate and breathing. Any failure of NICU to carefully monitor the child and act quickly in an emergency can have serious consequences.
- Failure to properly treat infections: Newborns in the NICU can develop serious infections, such as meningitis, herpes, e-coli, streptococcus, or sepsis. Serious complications can develop when NICU staff fail to quickly diagnose and properly treat infection in a child.
- Failure to diagnose and treat hypoglycemia: This is when a newborn’s blood sugar drops dangerously low. Untreated hypoglycemia can lead to brain damage and seizures.
- Mismanagement of intracranial hemorrhage: Infants can suffer brain bleeds during labor and delivery. If not quickly recognized and promptly treated in the NICU, intracranial hemorrhage can cause serious damage to the brain.
- Failing to provide cooling therapy: Infants with suspected hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy may need therapeutic hypothermia to prevent further brain injury.
What Types of Injuries Can Newborns Suffer Due to NICU Staff Negligence?
Newborn infants can sustain a range of serious injuries through NICU staff negligence. Common results of medical malpractice in neonatal intensive care units include:
- Cerebral palsy – brain and neurological disorders that affect balance, posture, and motor skills
- Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) – a type of brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation during childbirth that may cause cognitive impairment, developmental delays, and learning disabilities
- Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) – the type of brain injury most common in premature infants and linked to oxygen deprivation before, during, or immediately after birth
- Cognitive impairment and developmental disabilities
If your child has been seriously injured through NICU staff negligence, call Leventhal Puga Braley P.C. at (303) 759-9945 or toll-free at (877) 433-3906. Our Denver-based national medical malpractice attorneys have a history of success helping people who have been injured by their own healthcare providers.