Cesarean section (C-section) delivery constitutes a major surgery that exposes both the mother and infant to injury or death. Even when the patients survive their injuries, they may face permanent disabilities for the rest of their lives.
Not all C-section injuries constitute medical malpractice. This surgery has known risks to you and your child, and injuries can occur despite your doctor’s reasonable efforts to avoid them. But if you get injured due to unreasonably deficient care, you may have a legal right to compensation.
What Are C-Section Deliveries, and When Are They Performed?
A C-section occurs when doctors deliver a baby through a surgical incision in your abdomen. Doctors prefer to avoid C-sections unless medically necessary because of the risks to you and your baby.
But they will recommend a C-section under the following circumstances:
- The labor fails to progress normally
- Your baby becomes distressed
- The baby rests in an abnormal position
- You have twins, triplets, or higher-number multiples
- You or your baby have a pre-existing condition that makes labor or delivery dangerous
- Your birth canal has a blockage
- Your placenta or umbilical cord has moved to cover the cervix
- A vaginal delivery would endanger you or your baby
To perform a C-section, an anesthesiologist will administer an epidural by placing a catheter into your spine to deliver a regional anesthetic. The anesthetic numbs your body below the level of the catheter. In most cases, you will get numbed from your chest to your pelvic region. You will remain conscious. Doctors rarely administer general anesthetics for C-sections.
Once you lose sensation in your abdomen, your doctor will make an incision just above your pelvis. The incision will go through the skin, muscles, and fat layer into the abdominal cavity. The doctor makes another incision into your uterus to reach the baby. After delivering your baby, the doctor closes your incisions. You will probably recover in the hospital for three or four days.
What Causes C-Section Injuries?
C-section injuries can result from known risks or medical errors. Medical errors fall into three broad categories:
Diagnosis errors happen when doctors improperly diagnose your condition. This error causes you to undergo the wrong treatment for your condition or fail to receive treatment for a condition that your doctor should have diagnosed.
For example, suppose your baby’s blood pressure spiked during your C-section. Instead of diagnosing a problem with your child, the doctor deems the child’s blood pressure normal. If the non-diagnosis results in an injury to your child, you may have a claim against the doctor.
Treatment errors happen when you suffer an injury as a result of treatment that falls below the standard of care due to:
- Deficient skills
- Lack of knowledge
Errors in treatment can take many forms. An anesthesiologist can commit anesthesia errors by administering the wrong anesthetic dose or failing to monitor your vital signs. Doctors can nick a blood vessel or leave behind a sponge during surgery. Nurses can administer incorrect medication.
Communication errors cover several types of mistakes outside the diagnostic and treatment process. One type of error happens when healthcare professionals miscommunicate.
A doctor might give or receive incorrect instructions while talking to specialists. Nurses might make a mistake when recording your allergies or pre-existing conditions. Pharmacists could receive a prescription containing an error.
Another type of communication error happens when hospitals or testing laboratories mix up your record with another patient’s record. In this situation, the doctor could do everything right based on the information provided. However, since the doctor was working with the wrong record, you could still suffer an adverse event.
Finally, a communication error could occur between your doctor and you. Doctors must obtain informed consent before providing treatment.
This means they must do all of the following:
- Explain the treatment, including the benefits and risks
- Describe the consequences of non-treatment
- Obtain your consent to the treatment
C-sections have many risks. If a doctor fails to explain them before you consent to the procedure and you experience an adverse outcome, you might have a compensation claim. Just keep in mind that the level of communication needed depends on the circumstances. Thus, your doctor might have implied consent to perform an emergency life-saving C-section.
What Are Some Examples of C-Section Injuries?
Some injuries you or your child could suffer during a C-section include:
The most common injury to both the mother and child is a skin laceration. A slip or momentary lapse in concentration can cause the doctor to cut too deep, injuring the child.
Skin lacerations can leave you or your child with more than a simple cut.
Lacerations can lead to any of the following:
- Blood loss
These injuries might require expensive treatment and may significantly erode the quality of life. But they rarely cause death.
This birth injury happens when a force on the baby’s head causes the scalp to separate slightly from the skull. The gap fills with blood, causing discoloration and a bulge on the baby’s head. The body suffers no permanent damage and reabsorbs the blood within a few weeks.
Doctors might use too much force while pulling the baby through the incision in the uterus. These forces could fracture the baby’s collarbone or even their skull. Fractured bones heal within six to eight weeks. But the skull fracture can cause a brain injury.
Nerve damage can happen when nerves get stretched or severed. The most common nerve injuries in babies damage the brachial plexus and facial nerves. The brachial plexus is a nerve bundle where the neck meets the shoulder. When it gets stretched or severed, the child can suffer paralysis, weakness, and loss of sensation in their arm.
The facial nerves connect the brain to the facial muscles. When these nerves get stretched or severed, your child can suffer facial paralysis, affecting their ability to form facial expressions, blink, or even chew.
Every cell in your body needs oxygen to survive. You or your child could suffer severe bleeding during surgery. Blood loss can lead to organ damage or brain injuries. You or your child could even bleed to death.
Getting Compensation For a C-Section Injury To You or Your Child
Medical malpractice requires proof that the doctor failed to exercise the care and competence expected of a medical professional. To prove this, you will probably need expert witnesses, typically other doctors, who can testify that your care fell below the professional standard.
C-section injuries can leave you or your child with permanent disabilities. Contact us today at Allen Law Firm, P.A. for a free consultation to discuss your C-section and the compensation you can recover.