Articles Posted in Fetal Distress

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According to a recent lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Tennessee, defendant health care providers failed to properly handle the delivery of the minor plaintiff, resulting in extended fetal oxygen deprivation and brain injury at birth. Specifically, the complaint alleges that during the mother’s labor and delivery, medical personnel failed recognize and respond to clear signs of declining fetal response, indicating the need for an emergency C-section.

The mother plaintiff gave birth to her first child via Cesarean section, and shortly thereafter she became pregnant again. According to the lawsuit, despite her risk factors, including short stature; previously unsuccessful attempt at vaginal birth; and a brief time between the two pregnancies; the mother plaintiff was advised that she was a good candidate for a vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC).

The mother plaintiff went into labor early, and within the first half hour the EFM strip indicated minimal variability and loss of accelerations (two signs of fetal compromise). According to the lawsuit, rather than being admitted to the Labor & Delivery ward, the fetal monitoring was stopped and the mother plaintiff was advised to walk around the hospital for an hour or so. About two hours later, she was admitted whereupon labor progression was slow and the fetal monitoring continued to show repetitive late decelerations. After several hours, a C-section delivery was ordered.

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Many babies are diagnosed with cerebral palsy and other birth injuries due to a period of fetal distress during labor and delivery. “Every year, our legal team investigates claims arising out of a failure to respond to dangerous decelerations recorded on fetal heart monitor tracings,” said Syracuse birth injury lawyer Michael A. Bottar, Esq., of Bottar Law, PLLC, a law firm with a practice limited to medical malpractice and catastrophic injury cases throughout the State of New York.

“Historically, obstetricians and labor and delivery nurses had to review fetal heart monitor tracings in a specific location, whether it was at the bedside or on a remote computer monitor,” Bottar said. When these individuals are unavailable, timely and appropriate review of the tracings can overlooked and even minutes of delay can lead permanent disability, including cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy and global developmental delays.

Recently, a monitoring system was released that allows obstetricians to monitor the vital signs of a laboring mother and unborn baby through a smart phone application known as AirStrip OB. The system, which is being tested at Summit Medical Center in Tennessee, delivers various vital signs including fetal heart rate and maternal contractions in real-time. The application also affords doctors an opportunity to review nursing notes.

AirStrip OB is a great development. It should cut down on the number of missed opportunities to prevent a birth injury stemming from, e.g., insufficient oxygen (hypoxia) or poor blood flow (ischemia). Soon, all busy obstetricians will need to do to avoid malpractice is look at their iPhone to see – instantly – how a labor is progressing. Or, more importantly, if it is not proceeding as planned. As the fetal brain can be permanently damaged in minutes, it is encouraging to know that help for a struggling baby may now been only a phone call away.”
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