March 18, 2012

Hospitals Continue to Try to Lower C-Section Rates

by Levin & Perconti

The Illinois birth injury lawyers at our firm appreciate that surgical births are seemingly always a hot topic in the medical community. For years the rate of birth that ultimately ended in a C-section crept higher and higher. This was alarming to many because, though surgical births are necessary in certain emergency situations, they come with increased risks of birth injury harm to mother and child. Therefore, the overall harm might increase if unnecessary C-sections were performed.

These concerns have led many hospitals to institute a range of goals in order to get the C-section rate down. For example, the Lund Report this week posted a story on how one hospital is trying to get its own rate down. The facility is tracking its surgical birth rate on a month-by-month basis to closely identify any trends. Nationwide, according to the March of Dimes, 25.2% of all childbirths are C-sections. Other studies have found that rate to actually be higher. The particular hospital engaged in this tracking program has found that its own rate is slightly lower, at 21.7%. Some facilities across the country have reported surgical birth rates as high as 45-50%. Overall, the United States has the highest C-section rate of any developed country in the world.

Lowering C-section rates can be difficult, because each decision has to be made on a case by case basis. If complications develop, C-sections are often absolutely essential. Failure to conduct a timely C-section in certain situations can be malpractice. That is why the main efforts at lowering the rate involve things like talking to mothers about the potential benefits of having a vaginal birth after they have already had a C-section with a previous child. These births, known as VBACs, once fell out of favor but are once again being championed by many.

In general, the facility explains that they are working on lowering the rate by individually discussing each C-section that was performed after the fact to understand why it was performed and whether changes in the future might allow a different outcome. The hospital attributes some of its success in the “Hawthorne Effect.” When doctors know that their C-section rate is being monitored, they might not be so quick to recommend a C-section when it isn’t absolutely necessary.

From the legal perspective, there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer when it comes to the appropriate rate of C-section use. Our Chicago birth injury lawyers appreciate that the law looks at each case individually. In other words, all that matters in a birth injury lawsuit is: what conduct was reasonable, what conduct was actually exhibited, and whether that conduct caused harm. In many individual cases that may mean that a C-section birth should have been performed that was not. The fact that some doctors are working to lower the rate C-section overall is of no consequences in that individual legal determination. Conversely, an unnecessary surgical birth may be performed that leads to damaging consequences for the mother and child. While less common, that situation may also result in a suit if the harm could have been prevented had a reasonable medical care been provided.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Dramatic Rise in Cesarean Births

Report Finds Recent Rise in C-Section Births