Chicago Umbilical Cord Injury Attorneys

Newborn infantThe umbilical cord is the tube which connects the mother to the fetus during pregnancy. It begins to form around the fourth week of pregnancy and ultimately grows to approximately 22 inches long. Contained within the umbilical cord are three main blood vessels. One of these veins is responsible for the transfer of oxygen and food from the mother’s bloodstream to the bloodstream of the fetus by way of the placenta. The other two arteries are tasked with the transfer of waste from the fetus back to the placenta. Within the umbilical cord is a material called Wharton’s jelly, which protects and cushions these three main blood vessels.

Without this lifeline, the fetus simply could not survive pregnancy. After delivery, this cord is severed and the baby is on its own. But until that time, proper functioning of the umbilical cord is of the greatest importance. When problems arise, serious health issues may result, serious injury may follow and, depending on the extent of the problem, death may occur.

Types of Umbilical Cord Injuries

It is the doctor’s responsibility to monitor the fetus during pregnancy and delivery to make sure that no umbilical cord problems exist. When any member of the medical team fails to do so, and negligence results in injury to the baby, medical malpractice has occurred.

Some umbilical cord complications include:

Nuchal Cord

Occurring in more than 10% of all births, a nuchal cord refers to an umbilical cord that gets wrapped around the baby’s neck, usually just once, but in some cases multiple times. As you might expect, the more times the cord coils, the more difficult it is to extricate the baby from this dangerous and potentially deadly situation.

Generally, babies with a nuchal cord are healthy, as this can happen to any infant. But certain risk factors increase the likelihood of such a condition, which include:

  • A baby of large size
  • Greater than normal volume of amniotic fluid
  • Twins, triplets, or other multiple births
  • Shoulder or breech presentation at birth

The presence of a nuchal cord can usually be detected on an ultrasound and the doctor can usually remove the cord from the baby’s neck during labor. But in circumstances where the doctor is negligent and fails to detect the condition, a nuchal cord can lower the baby’s heart rate significantly and create a dangerous or deadly situation. In circumstances where the doctor fails to act properly and medical malpractice occurs, the baby may be at risk for:

  • Complications or fetal brain damage due to loss of oxygen
  • Fetal abnormalities related to heart rate
  • Blood flow restrictions
  • Decreased fetal development

Umbilical Cord Prolapse

A condition where the umbilical cord precedes the birth of the baby and drops through the open cervix of the mother during delivery. As you might expect, when this occurs the cord can become pinched or entangled around the baby, causing any number of problems. Risk factors for cord prolapse include:

  • Longer than normal umbilical cord
  • Babies with low birth weight
  • Multiple births
  • Excess amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios)
  • Premature babies
  • Circumstances when the doctor ruptures membranes to begin labor
  • Breech presentation

Although cord prolapse can be handled without any negative effects on the baby, sometimes a pinched, trapped, or wrapped cord can lead to serious injury from oxygen deprivation. This can in turn lead to any number of medical issues including brain damage, cerebral palsy, cognitive issues, or even infant death/stillbirth. If you believe that a cord prolapse was not handled correctly and medical malpractice may have occurred, contact an attorney immediately.

Vasa Previa

When one or more placental or umbilical cord blood vessels cross the opening to the uterus (cervix), this is called vasa previa. There is danger that these blood vessels, which are unprotected, may tear during the course of labor, which can result in life-threatening bleeding, resulting in death for over half of the babies who suffer from it. Fortunately, vasa previa is a rare condition that occurs in less than 1% of births. It may be diagnosed during a pelvic examination or an ultrasound, and known risk factors include:

  • Multiple births
  • Placenta issues, such as placenta previa (a low-lying placenta covering part or all of the cervix)
  • Velamentous cord insertion (when the umbilical cord fails to connect properly with the placenta)

In some circumstances when vasa previa has been diagnosed, it may be considered medical malpractice not to perform a C-section.

Single Umbilical Artery

When an artery in the umbilical cord is missing, this rare condition, which occurs in about 1% of single birth pregnancies and 5% of multiple birth pregnancies, is called single umbilical artery. Of those children born with this condition, about 20% also have genetic, kidney, digestive or heart conditions as well.

During pregnancy, an ultrasound may reveal the existence of single umbilical artery. In such a circumstance, the doctor may suggest an echocardiogram, an amniocentesis and/or a more detailed ultrasound to properly monitor the baby’s health during pregnancy. As with all other umbilical cord problems, when a doctor fails to properly diagnose such a condition and injury results, a lawsuit for medical malpractice may be in order.

Umbilical Cord Knots

When a fetus flips and moves around in the amniotic sac, knots can occur in the umbilical cord. This likelihood is even higher with twins as the babies share the same sac and the chances for entangling cords are increased. Although the knots are usually loose and cause no immediate danger, in cases where the knots are tight, potential loss of oxygen is of major concern.

This is because when a baby is deprived of oxygen or blood flow for even a short period of time, traumatic brain damage can occur, resulting in a lifelong decrease in cognitive abilities. In other extreme cases, wrongful death – stillbirth or miscarriage – may occur. Doctors, hospitals, and nursing staff on duty must pay close attention to avoid complications adversely affecting the baby. When a medical professional fails to do so and injury results, medical malpractice has occurred.

Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for Umbilical Cord Negligence

During the pregnancy, a doctor should take advantage of all the diagnostic tests available to look for potential problems. The health of the umbilical cord is vital, as it is responsible for the movement of food and oxygen between mother and fetus. Without this link, there can be no life.

The condition and location of the cord must be monitored not only during pregnancy, but especially during delivery. If the cord is pinched, trapped, squeezed, or knotted, the flow of oxygen can stop and brain damage or other serious injury will quickly follow. Doctors and staff must be constantly on alert for abnormal conditions that can lead to birth injury or death. It is their responsibility to take appropriate and immediate action when such conditions exist, and a failure to do so may amount to medical malpractice.

When this happens, a lawsuit can be filed against the responsible medical professionals to force them to take responsibility for their negligent actions. This should be done not only to achieve justice, but to provide fair monetary compensation to provide for the needs of the injured child and family. Lawsuits for birth injuries are not easy matters. Medical insurance companies usually fight vigorously. But with experienced attorneys on your side, you don’t need to worry.

Call Our Chicago Umbilical Cord Injury Attorneys Today

If you believe that a member of your family has been harmed due to the actions or inaction of a medical professional, contact Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC. Our phones are open 24 hours a day, and you can speak directly to an experienced Chicago birth injury lawyer responsible for millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts. No fees are ever charged unless we are successful, and it’s always free to speak to a member of our legal team. Call now at (312) 644-0444.

Additional Information