Infant’s brain damage blamed on delayed delivery
DURING DELIVERY, THE MOTHER’S PERINATOLOGIST recognized a severe shoulder dystocia. The perinatologist abandoned vaginal delivery and ordered an emergency cesarean delivery. The mother was transferred to an operating room (OR) with the baby’s head out between her legs. In the OR, the perinatologist pushed the baby’s head back into the uterus and performed a cesarean extraction. Nineteen minutes elapsed from when the vaginal delivery was abandoned and the baby was delivered.
The child was unresponsive at birth with no spontaneous movement or respiration. She was intubated and transferred to the NICU, where she was resuscitated. MRI confirmed that the child had hypoxic ischemia and severe, permanent brain damage from acute birth asphyxia. The child is blind, deaf, hypertensive, and has diffuse spasticity. She has a tracheostomy, a gastrostomy tube, and requires 24-hour care.
PARENTS’ CLAIM The perinatologist was negligent for abandoning vaginal delivery when delivery was progressing appropriately and there was no fetal distress. If the perinatologist had rotated the baby’s shoulder to the oblique position and/or used suprapubic pressure, the shoulder would have become disimpacted and the baby would have been safely delivered within seconds. Delay in delivery allowed for 19 minutes of umbilical cord compression, resulting in brain damage.
PHYSICIAN’S DEFENSE Cesarean delivery was appropriate; the baby did not suffer cord compression. Injury to the brain occurred days before delivery, based on prenatal ultrasonography.
VERDICT A $5.5 million California settlement was reached.