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The use of epidural anesthesia is very common during childbirth. However, there are significant risks associated with it which are not always clearly and explicitly conveyed to mothers by medical professionals. This can result in the absence of informed consent. Additionally, these epidurals can interfere with second stage labor, which often requires use of instruments during delivery. In turn, this raises risk of serious injury to the child. These pain drugs also come with their own risks, which include decreased blood flow to the baby, slowing of heart rate, oxygen deprivation, and respiratory problems in the mother.
When it comes to labor and delivery pain, “regional analgesia” is used to refer to the relief of labor pain. The term “regional anesthesia” indicates use of a higher concentration of local anesthetic, which results in the numbing of of all sensation. Local anesthetic is traditionally used to make instrumental or C-section delivery easier. But the two terms may sometimes be used interchangeably. Plus, there is a good amount of overlap between them. For instance, epidural analgesia may provide enough pain relief for instrumental delivery, which in turn negates the need for more potent anesthesia.
Regional techniques can provide unmatched pain relief. These techniques include the administration of drugs into the lower region of the central nervous system. Analgesics may be administered via epidural, spinal, or a combination thereof. The epidural approach requires more time to take effect versus the spinal approach, wherein drugs are sent directly into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
Some local anesthetics used for regional techniques in delivery and labor labor include bupivacaine, ropivacaine, lidocaine, procaine, 2-chloroprocaine, and tetracaine.
Low blood pressure, or hypotension, often is a complication of analgesia and/or anesthesia use. The position a mother must remain in after receiving an epidural also contributes to this problem. She is more or less paralyzed for the duration of delivery. Hypotension is observed in roughly a third of patients, with more serious cases occurring about 12% of the time.
Low blood pressure in the mother is a major risk for the child. Epidurals block the nerves responsible for blood pressure regulation. This leads blood in the baby to pool, which keeps it from properly pumping through the body. Additionally, the mother’s arteries lose tension. This makes it difficult for her heart to pump adequate blood to the baby. It can result in a shortage of oxygen-rich blood reaching the placenta and the child.
The baby depends entirely upon the mother’s heart to pump blood to the placenta. Without pan adequate supply of oxygen-rich blood, the baby can suffer brain damage.
Women who analgesia and/or anesthesia during delivery require with a fetal heart monitor up until the point of abdominal prepping. But they may require further monitoring depending on their individual circumstances. Further monitoring is required after prepping depending on the circumstances. In most cases, distress will be evident on the fetal heart monitor. The staff must pay close attention to and properly interpret the fetal heart tracings.
Drops in heart rate can occur after using epidurals. They are often a sign of fetal distress. Following an epidural administration, the mother’s blood pressure can become so low that oxygen-rich blood cannot reach the baby.
Most babies born to women who get epidurals develop slow heart rate, or bradycardia. This does not typically harm the healthy baby, but it can be extremely dangerous to a baby that is compromised from a different complication problem.
Low blood pressure that can occur after epidurals can lower the baby’s blood pH. This is called acidemia, or having acidic blood. When a baby experiences acidemia at birth, it generally means the baby didn’t get enough oxygen in the womb. In most cases, babies recover from these problems. But excessive deprivation can cause permanent brain damage.
Active fetal heart monitoring must take place both before and after administering anesthesia. Preparations should be made for a C-section delivery at the first signs of fetal distress. Delaying a C-section delivery when a child is deprived of oxygen can result in brain injury, such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE.
Uterine contractions often get weaker and less frequent after epidural use. Typically, an oxytocin infusion is necessary to aid labor and stimulate stronger contractions. However, oxytocin use during labor can cause:
In many cases, women are not given proper informed consent for epidural administration during labor and delivery. Often, they are unaware of the risks that are explicitly described on the packaging of these drugs, including maternal and fetal toxicity/damage.
Failure to inform the mother of these risks is negligence. Failure to properly administer the drugs and closely monitor mother and child with a skilled team present throughout the process also constitutes negligence. The team must have detailed communication with each other during labor and delivery. Similarly, the baby’s heart rate must be continually monitored. At the first signs of distress, the baby must be delivered via emergency C-section.
If these standards of care are not followed, and if it results in the mother or baby suffering injury, it is medical malpractice.
If your child experienced a birth injury resulting from anesthesia errors, the team at Willens Law Offices can help.
We have helped the families of children across Illinois get the compensation they need for a secure future. We strive to give the utmost personal attention to each child and family we represent.
Our nationally recognized birth injury firm has numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that speak to our success and experience. You will not pay our firm unless we win or settle your case.
Call Willens Law Offices at (312) 957-4166 for a free case evaluation. Our firm’s expert team are available to you whenever you need them, 24/7.
The plaintiff went to a Chicago hospital for delivery of twins via cesarean section. In the delivery room, a suspicious rash was recognized on one of the twins and later, fecal and urine cultures confirmed the presence of candida. She was started on prophylactic anti-fungal medicine and is healthy. The other twin was clear of any rash and though she was at risk for fungal infection, she was not treated in a timely manner. Later, a head ultrasound and MRI confirmed the diagnosis and damage to her brain. A lawsuit was filed on the plaintiff’s behalf. The case was vigorously defended by lawyers for the physician and the hospital that he worked for over 3 years. Eventually, a mediation took place at which time the defendants offered $3,000,000 to settle, which the plaintiff rejected. It was not until trial that the case settled for $10,000,000.
Birth injury cases are among the most complicated medical malpractice cases to litigate. With years of experience in birth trauma litigation our legal team has the skills, the resources and experience necessary to address and win a wide variety of birth injury cases. Our legal team has secured millions of dollars in compensation for birth injury victims.
With decades of hands-on experience working with top healthcare professionals in labor and delivery, our legal team has access to some of the top medical professionals in the world. As in many types of medical malpractice cases, high quality expert are essential in obtaining justice.
Our firm was established to focus on the unique needs of our clients. We work with top medical, life-planning, and forensics experts to determine the causes and extent of injuries, prognoses of victims, and areas of medical negligence. Our passion for helping birth injury victims allows our attorneys to deliver unrivaled legal services for your family.
Willens Law Offices have helped the families of children across Illinois get the compensation they need for a secure future.
We strive to give the utmost personal attention to each child and family we represent.