May 7, 2014

Jaundice can Lead to Serious Injury

Jaundice is a common condition among newborn babies. It develops when an infant has abnormally high levels of bilirubin present inside of the blood. This substance is created by the body during the process of replacing red blood cells. Normally, the liver works to break down and remove bilirubin from the body. When that is not happening, the bilirubin causes the baby's skin and eyes to take on a yellowish tinge, which is jaundice. According to the National Institute of Health, jaundice can have serious health consequences if not treated adequately and quickly.

Most cases of mild jaundice are harmless, clearing up on its own within two to four days after birth. However, according to the NIH, any level of jaundice merits strict and regular monitoring as soon as possible. This is accomplished through a skin assessment or a blood test of bilirubin levels. If the testing process show that levels are increasing, instead of decreasing, treatment of the condition should begin while the infant is still in the hospital. The baby should feed often to promote frequent bowel movements. The body can remove excessive bilirubin through the stools.

Treatment of Jaundice

If the levels remain elevated, light therapy treatment is a viable option. The newborn is placed under a blue light, wearing only a diaper and protective eye wear. The light works to break down the bilirubin that remains inside of the blood. If the infant is sent home, the parents should receive a light therapy blanket. The NIH advises, for at home therapies:

*Allow a nurse into your home to set up the therapy and check on the levels daily
*The light source must remain on the child's skin as much as possible
*The infant must have feedings 10 to 13 times per day
*Keep a record of the number of wet and dirty diapers each day

For the most severe levels of jaundice, treatment should reportedly include an exchange transfusion, where doctor's replace the infant's blood. Physicians may also choose an intravenous treatment of antibiotics.

Though most treatment methods are successful in controlling bilirubin levels, poor diagnosis or inappropriate treatment decisions can potentially lead to significant damages. Even after the newborn leaves the hospital, the first pediatric visits should address any jaundice concerns. Though rare, jaundice can reportedly result in:

*Cerebral palsy
*Brain damage
*Deafness

According to the NIH, there are some steps that an OB GYN can take to detect the likelihood of significant jaundice. Blood tests to determine the mother's blood type should be done. If it is determined that the mother is Rh negative or O positive, the physician may choose to conduct a follow-up test on the infant's umbilical cord to determine whether the child's blood type is incompatible with the mother's. If physicians do not take necessary precautions and apply adequate treatments, they may be liable for further complications to the baby.

If your infant experienced significant injury from jaundice, contact an experienced attorney soon to protect your legal rights.

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Advocate Calls for Hospital Births -- Raises Awareness of Childbirth Deaths

Brain Injury Sparks National Debate

December 5, 2013

Childbirth Directives & Religious Organizations May Face Off in Court

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit against the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, according to a recent article in The New York Times. The suit, which was brought on behalf of a Michigan woman, alleges that the woman received inadequate medical attention from a Michigan Catholic hospital when she sought care 18 weeks into her pregnancy. In suing the bishops rather than the hospital, the ACLU is targeting the bishops’ medical directives and the impact they have on pregnant female patients in Catholic hospitals.

The ACLU’s lawsuit could have important implications for birth injury lawyers and victims of medical negligence during childbirth. If successful, it could pave the way for more actions of its kind.

The Facts
The plaintiff states that, after her water broke, she rushed to the county’s only hospital. Medical experts retained by the plaintiff claim that her fetus had nearly no chance of surviving, and that the plaintiff had a high risk of infection if she continued her pregnancy. But the doctors did not give her this information, and instead of inducing labor or surgically removing the fetus, they sent the plaintiff home. When she returned the next morning with further complications, the doctors again declined to admit her and sent her home.

Finally, she returned that evening in severe pain, with fever and bleeding. She had a miscarriage at the hospital. The plaintiff alleges that the hospital was negligent in not terminating her pregnancy when her life was in danger. A medical expert asserted that the hospital’s actions amounted to “basic neglect” and could have resulted in the deaths of both the mother and the fetus. The ACLU claims that the Catholic bishops’ directives on abortion lead to this sort of alleged medical negligence toward pregnant women.

Analysis
This lawsuit is unique in that it is aimed at the religious organization that runs the hospital rather than the hospital itself. In addition to the question of medical negligence, it brings up interesting issues regarding the First Amendment and religious freedom. The ACLU alleges that the abortion policies of Catholic hospitals have led to several incidents similar to that of the Michigan woman in recent years.

According to the president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, the bishops’ directives are “more nuanced” than the suit alleges, and allow for necessary treatment of pregnant women even when that treatment could result in the loss of the fetus. He stressed the Catholic hospitals’ responsibility to properly interpret the directives and to provide accurate information to patients. The issue is whether the directives conflict with the relevant standard of care, and if so, how to resolve that conflict.

The ACLU’s press release on the lawsuit can be found here.

And see here for the bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care
Services.

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$13 Million Verdict in Birth Injury Case -- Failure to Perform C-Section

October 28, 2013

Injuries to Mom and Baby Due to Improper Epidural Administration

It’s no secret that childbirth is one of the most painful experiences of a person’s life. With all of the advances in modern medicine, controlling pain seems to still be problematic. A highly popular pain management technique during childbirth is the epidural. For many women, receiving an epidural a given. However, slight mistakes on the part of doctors and nurses can cause severe injuries to mom and baby. What roles do healthcare providers play in these injuries?

What is an epidural?

An epidural is a method of pain relief during labor made from a mixture of local aesthetics and often narcotics or opioids. Further, the epidural often includes medication to prolong the effects of the drugs and stabilize the mother’s blood pressure. The goal of the epidural is to temporarily deaden the nerves in the uterus and cervix that carry pain signals to the brain during childbirth. This provides pain relief but does not provide a total lack of feeling. There are two common types of epidurals, the regular epidural and the combined spinal-epidural. These are administered in the same way.

How are they administered?

In the US, a nurse-anesthetist or an obstetrician can administer the epidural. However, in the UK, only a licensed anesthetist may administer an epidural - likely due to the very delicate nature of the administration. There can be disastrous consequences for even minor mistakes.

In order to administer the epidural, the woman in labor must lie on her side or sit up with her back arched. After thoroughly sanitizing the area below the waist on the back, the administering nurse or doctor then numbs a small portion of the lower back where the epidural is to be administered. After the area is numbed, the nurse or doctor sticks a large hollow needle into epidural space, the space between the small bones in your spine and between the layers of tissues in the spinal column. After the needle is inserted, the nurse or doctor will insert a small catheter tube through the needle and remove the needle. The tube is taped up the woman’s back and the drugs are administered through it.

The administration process is painful and requires a woman who is already in labor to remain completely still.

What are the effects of mistakes?
As you can see, given the delicacy and precision required to successfully administer the epidural and the location of the epidural, severe injuries can result from slight mistakes on the part of the administering doctor or nurse. These mistakes can cause injuries to the mother such as:

· difficulty breathing;
· nerve damage;
· severe headaches from leaking spinal fluid and other complications;
· cardiac arrest;
· seizures; and,
· wrongful death.

Clearly any injury that occurs to the mother during labor and birth can injure the baby. Possible injury to the baby includes, but is not limited to:

· coma;
· stroke;
· brain injury; and,
· wrongful death.

In addition to injuries do to errors in administering the epidural, there are many common side effects that the doctor may not properly emphasize prior to administration of the epidural.

Who is to blame when something goes wrong?
Women must decide carefully when choosing whether to use an epidural to manage pain during childbirth. The healthcare professionals are in the best position to fully warn patients about the risks, complications and danger of epidurals. Healthcare professionals are responsible for the correct and accurate administration and regulation of epidurals. If you or your child has suffered one of the complications above, please consult our Chicago birth injury lawyers.

See Related Blog Posts:

Mother files wrongful death lawsuit over preventable pregnancy complication

September 4, 2013

New Research Aimed at Improving Speech for Children with Cerebral Palsy

If you need a reminder of the incredible work that many community members engage in on a daily basis, you need look no further than medical research striving to improve the lives of injured children. For example, one of the leading areas of medical research these days is aimed at children with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is actually a term for a range of injuries affected the brain and development. Most children with CP have some physical manifestations of the injury while other also have cognitive challenges.

There is no “cure” for cerebral palsy, but experts continue to hone in on better therapy and other treatments to minimize some of the adverse consequences.

Recently, news has come in quickly about many different on-going research projects aimed at different aspects of the ailment. Upon reading about these projects, it is easy to get the feeling that we are on the cusp of some truly groundbreaking discoveries and advances in the area which may greatly improve the lives of children with cerebral palsy and their families.

Improving Speech
For example, this week, Medical Express reported on new research aimed at improving speech for these children. The project is just underway, so we should not expect specific results for several months or even years.

As explained in the story, the head researcher on the project is hoping to improve the communication skills of children with CP. The first stage of the research involves analysis of the current speech patterns of these children. The analysis will allow creation of a template to understand the forces which are leading to current difficulties. This is essentially a diagnostic phase--understanding what the problem is so that fixes can be developed later.

More specifically, researchers are trying to determine if the problem is rooted in muscular problems or in cognitive problems. It could be that the muscles which control speech are improperly developed, causing speech abnormalities. Identifying exactly which muscles are not working correctly is the critical first step. Alternatively (or additionally), the issue may be rooted in the brain’s difficulty processing and storing the correct information.

Possible fixes can only be had once the specifics of the problem are nailed down. The research may, for example, allow creation of specialized tools--like voice synthesisers--to account for problems and correct the speech.

The lead researcher summarized the problem as follows: “"Many children with CP have difficulties with speech melody, rhythm and stress. These difficulties, generally referred to as prosodic difficulties, can affect the intelligibility of a child's speech, and are therefore of great clinical importance.”

Cerebral Palsy Independence
This research project, and many others like it, are all aimed at helping those with cerebral palsy lead more independent lives. As many local families know, the consequences of the condition can be far reaching, with sufferers requiring around the clock care to get by each day. Improving one’s speech can go a long way to allowing the individual much more freedom, and lessening their dependence on others. Few skills are more important than communication, and those with cerebral palsy deserve to have no stone left unturned when it comes to allowing them the ability to interact with others in as efficient a way as possible.

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New Cerebral Palsy Research Begins with NIH Grant

The Link Between the Infant’s Heart and Brain

June 28, 2013

Profile of Determination with Erb’s Palsy

The Pilot Online recently shared a wonderful story about a high school student who is thriving even after being born with Erb’s Palsy. Her story is a testament to the power of perseverance, a positive outlook, and access to necessary medical care and support for those dealing with a birth injury.

As injury attorneys in Chicago, we have worked with many families over the years whose children developed permanent injuries during childbirth. Naturally, family members minds immediately drift into thoughts about limitations and the list of things that their child may never be able to do. But at these times it is most important to consider the opposite, the possibilities. There are examples throughout Chicago, Illinois, and the rest of the country of children with any manner of special conditions or challenges who lead extraordinary lives, impacting everyone around them.

The young woman profiled in the Pilot Online story, Kara Jones, graduated from high school this spring. An athlete, Kara played on the school’s girl’s soccer team. A team captain for three years, she even scored a game winning overtime goal in a local playoff match this season. Excelling in the classroom as well, Kara graduated as salutatorian of her class. She is attending college in the Fall and is hoping to enter the medical field.

All of her success is made even more special considering that throughout her life Kara has battled the effect of a birth injury she suffered. Kara has Erb’s Palsy, a condition caused by damage to the nerves in her arm and shoulder. Erb’s Palsy strikes many local families, usually caused by excessive force being applied during difficult births.

In Kara’s case, doctors initially told the family that the girl had long odds--it was unclear if she’d ever graduate from high school at all--let alone accomplish so much while doing so. But she beat the doctor’s odds.

Over the years she was slowly able to regain motion in her damaged arm via use of continued quality therapy. As a child, the arm was bent and of little use, but, day by day, she improved. By the time she was ten she could use the arm to turn doorknobs. A few years later she was strong enough to brush her own hair. Now, as a result of continued therapy, her arm is no longer bent as it was in her younger days.

All those facing tough life circumstances and difficult odds have moments of despair, anger, frustration, and hopelessness. Yet, no matter what, one must keep hope. Learning about those who have been in the same situation and fought their way through is one of the best ways to be reminded of the possibilities that still exist. That is true no matter what the circumstances, from a childbirth injury or car accident, and anything in between.

If you have questions about any of the legal ramifications of these sorts of situations, please contact our team of lawyers today to see how we can help.

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Study on Value of Surgery for Some with Cerebral Palsy

target="_blank"Concerns About Stem Cell Treatments for Cerebral Palsy

June 13, 2013

Long-Term Study Results Show Benefit of Surgery for Patients with Cerebral Palsy

There is still no “cure” for the many forms of cerebral palsy. While stem cell therapies offer hope that one day damaged parts of the body which create cerebral palsy can actually be re-grown properly, scientists are still in the early stages of understanding this option. In fact, some scientists are warning against buying into some scams where the unscrupulous convince families to pay tens of thousands of dollars for stem cell “therapies” that may serve no purpose. There is no still no guaranteed right or wrong answers for families when deciding what treatment options to consider. But at the very least it is important to receive advice from trusted, experienced medical professionals.

Also, recognition that some options, like stem cell therapies, are still in their early stages, does not mean that families are without recourse to help their loved one who has cerebral palsy recover. In fact, research is now coming in regarding the long-term benefit of certain surgical methods which offer hope for all those battling CP.

Surgical Benefits Hold Up
As reported recently in the Gazette, doctor’s reported the result of a decades-long tracking study into the effectiveness of a surgical procedure for children with cerebral palsy known as selective dorsal rhizotomy. The actual surgery is not new, having been used for many years. However, even though it has a relatively long history, doctors were not sure of the long-term benefits of the procedure. When performed on toddlers, would the positive outcomes last ten years later? Twenty years later? Did the surgery offer temporary aid that would fade over time or was it permanent?

The report explains how the surgery is used to help with the most common type of CP-- spastic cerebral palsy. Those with spastic CP usually have significant mobility problems, many are never able to walk and even moving other limbs can be a challenge. To correct this, the surgery used electrical impulse to identify affected nerve. This allows surgeons to make precise choices about what nerves to cut out in surgery. Combined with continual therapy after the surgery, many patient see drastic improvement in mobility.

This week researchers revealed the results of a project that monitored some patients for as long as fifteen years after their operation. The results were impressive, as the vast majority of children tracked in this study (102 overall) saw permanent improvement in their mobility, making it far more likely that they were able to improve their quality of life with minimal adaptations necessary.

As one doctor involved explained of the surgery, ““It’s not a life-or-death situation, we’re trying to improve their quality of life,” Another commented that the goal “seems to be occurring in a group of those patients.”

The findings of his long-term study are obviously encouraging news for the many families whose children have already had the surgery or are considering it. This is also a testament to the incredible work of so many medical researchers working on these issues. For legal help on issues related to cerebral palsy developed at birth and securing access to resources to help in treatment, please consider contact our attorneys today.

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Concerns About Stem Cell Treatments for Cerebral Palsy

Doctor Recognized for Work with Cerebral Palsy

May 22, 2013

Concerns About Stem Cell Treatments for Cerebral Palsy

We often explain how birth injury lawsuits are critical to ensuring those affected have access to as many resources as necessary for the rest of their lives to recover as much as possible from the injury. For example, when it comes to cerebral palsy, those who are able to purchase specialized equipment, have close nursing care (if necessary), and access of extensive rehabilitation services have far better outcomes than those that do not.

However, it is also important to reiterate that many birth injuries, including cerebral palsy, have no actual cure. Most advancement has to do with better dealing with the consequences or adapting to them. Actually curing the underlying injury is not possible.

For now.

Many hold out hope that in the years to come more advanced options will become available to reverse the injury. When discussing cures, most focus is on stem cells. The potential ability of the cells to rejuvenate areas of the body and spur re-growth of damaged cells ultimately may allow currently permanent injuries to be reversed. The potential is truly inspiring, and all medical professionals who are working diligently on these matters should be supported as much as possible.

Yet, we must not get ahead of ourselves. We are not there yet. As it now stands, stem cell research is still unable to do what many hope it might one day. But the push for breakthrough advances and extreme desire for a cure may lead are leading some families to go to extreme lengths in order to secure what they hope is revolutionary treatment. Many are calling for caution.

Caution Needed with Cerebral Palsy Treatment
For example, an ABC News story this week explored how many scientists are urging families not to pursue risky stem cell treatments to correct cerebral palsy. In most cases people are leaving the country to have the operations--though many treatments may still be available in the United States

At one Australian medical conference, a group of panelists explored the risk. One explained, “"A lot of these stem cell tourism companies don't even describe what type of cells they're giving, so first we don't even know if they're human cells... so, of course, it is a very risky procedure. There has been a couple of cases internationally of children actually dying from these treatments."

That is not to say that we are still a long ways off from identifying reliable stem cell treatments. The very same panelists discussed one breakthrough from South Korean researchers. That effort involved use of umbilical cord stem cells in ways that may repair brain cells. This ability to reverse the brain damage which causes cerebral palsy is encouraging.

The bottom line: Tread carefully when it comes to advanced medical treatments not yet widely available in the country. All medical decisions are personal, but those decisions should be based on informed opinion of the possible risks and benefits. No matter what the case, though, access to financial resources to secure appropriate treatment is key. When it comes to injuries caused by negligence, contact our Chicago cerebral palsy lawyers to see how we can help.

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Doctor Recognized for Work with Cerebral Palsy

Civil Lawsuits & Punitive Damages

May 15, 2013

Doctor Recognized for Work with Children with Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is perhaps the most recognized birth injury. There are many different types of this harm that usually affects children during the birthing process itself. Most Illinois community members are affected by cerebral palsy at some point, perhaps with their own child developing it or with friends or family members whose child has cerebral palsy.

The widespread awareness of the condition comes with one benefit: a growing number of residents are working hard to ensure that children with cerebral palsy are accommodated whenever possible so that they do not miss out on any aspect of childhood or community living in general. Combined with advances in the design and manufacture of technologies and tools to help account for challenges, those with cerebral palsy have a good a chance as ever before to live full lives with minimal adaptations as a result of physical or cognitive impairments.

None of this is to say that the injury is sometimes not debilitating. But it is important to recognize the progress that has been made in recent decades to bring all community members into the fold, including those who suffer birth injuries like CP.

Similarly, it is critical to recognize those experts in the health and well-being of these patients who have done so much to advance the knowledge around the condition and expand access to quality treatments, rehabilitation tools, and other resources to ensure those with cerebral palsy are able to develop to their full capacity.

Cerebral Palsy Center
One of those unsung heroes is Dr. Jan Brunstrom-Hernandez who was recently profiled in a Fox News article for her career working on CP issues. The doctor founded the Cerebral Palsy Center in St. Louis fifteen years ago and has worked with adults and children with the condition for year.

Dr. Brunstrom-Hernandez has a particularly unique perspective when working with her patients. That is because the doctor herself has cerebral palsy.

As a young girl, the doctor was surrounded by medical professionals who helped in her own development. However years later, as a practicing physician, she was saddened to learn that little had changed for cerebral palsy patients, as children were receiving the same treatments that she did as a little girl decades before. She wanted to change that, and so she helped found the cerebral palsy clinic that is still going strong today.

Discussing her passion for the work, the doctor explains, “"I have gotten as much or more out of taking care of these patients as they have ever gotten from me. It changed my life. They saved my life. They taught me how to believe in myself. They taught me how to look at myself differently."

The world is a different place today for children with cerebral palsy than it was even a few decades ago. However, while more tools are available, they still come with a cost. That is why it is critical for families not to leave any stone unturned when it comes to procuring the resources necessary to pay for all the care needed. In some cases, when the injury was caused by negligence, then legal liability may be had. Please contact our Chicago cerebral palsy lawyers for guidance on your case.

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Unique Malpractice Case: Tubes Tied Without Consent After C-Section

Doctor Cleared of Liability in Birth Injury Lawsuit

February 13, 2013

Helping Those with Cerebral Palsy Learn to Speak

It is encouraging that so many professionals are working on all aspects of understanding and treating medical conditions like cerebral palsy. For a variety of reasons, children continue to be born in our area and throughout the country who suffer from cerebral palsy with various consequences on the rest of their lives. Until we get that number down to zero, it is incumbent upon all of us to do what we can to make the lives of those affected as full as possible.

As Chicago birth injury lawyers, our firm is intimately aware of the serious challenges facing families after a youngster is born with cerebral palsy. Because the term refers to a range of injuries, the consequences for those harmed vary considerably. Some show only mild symptoms, often with movement. However, others face serious challenges, without the ability to walk, talk, or process information clearly. Those with more far-reaching harm are those who need more support, therapy, and access to equipment to help in their development. Cerebral palsy lawsuits often focus on providing the resources for that extra support when the injury itself was caused by mistakes made during a birth.

Research Improving Lives for Those with Cerebral Palsy
While access to financial resources is critical, it is only as worthwhile as the treatments and equipment which can be secured to improve the life for those with cerebral palsy. Fortunately, more and more options are being studied and developed to help maximize the quality of life for these community members. For example, the Daily Aztec recently reported on studies in labs on the San Diego State University campus which are helping to improve the lives of children who suffered the birth injury

According to the report, researchers in a speech therapy lab began investigating the connection between facial expression and speech language development in children with cerebral palsy. Because of the motor function impairments, speech is often inhibited in children with cerebral palsy. However if facial expressions can be translated into various speech alternatives, then those expression may be used to provide the children with an alternative form of communication.

To explore this possibilities the researchers plan to use computer technology to track facial movements. The technology is the same as that used in the entertainment industry to create life-like animated characters (i.e. Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy).

Summarizing the plan, the lead researcher explains “No one has looked at the speech movements of children with cerebral palsy using this type of technology. We can use the information gathered to help speech-language pathologists understand how to help their clients communicate more effectively.”

The work may ultimately work by categorizing various details about facial expressions and how they translate when certain phrases are read. By comparing the movement of different participants (up to age 18, some with cerebral palsy and some without). Early results are already showing important differences which, if analyzed properly, may be used to better understand the communication styles of those with cerebral palsy.

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Cerebral Palsy Treatment May be Tied to Umbilical Cord Blood Cells

Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis Turned Out to be Wrong

January 15, 2013

Legal Liability & Maternal Injuries

Obviously much more work still needs to be done before children are born without preventable injuries that affect their lives. But in recent months more and more attention has been paid to injuries suffered by mothers during childbirth. There is a somewhat mistaken assumption that the risks of mothers suffering serious injury or even death in childbirth is non-existent in the Western world. That could not be further from the truth as many families have discovered first-hand the heartbreak associated with maternal injuries during or after the birth of their child.

Recently, Health News Digest published a story that touched on these issues and the fact that improvement is needed in the area of maternal healthcare. The story is written from the perspective of medical providers, but the arguments made about liability in these cases mirrors that made by legal professionals working on these cases.

New Study
Essentially the story trumpets a new study which took a look at liability issues as they relate to maternal care. In other words it includes information on when lawsuits are filed and for what sort of misconduct on the part of medical professionals that harms mothers. The research project was issued by a group known as Childbirth Connection and entitled Maternity Care and Liability: Pressing Problems, Substantive Solutions.

Interestingly, even though the story is written from the perspective of medical providers, the arguments advanced are similar to those shared by our birth injury attorneys. For example, the study found that liability premiums are a relatively small component of practice expenses. This flies in the face of arguments made by certain groups which suggest that there is some mass financial problem caused by doctors being held liable following these errors. Similarly, defensive medicine was not found to be a problem. Tort reform proponents often claim that lawsuits run amok lead to costly defensive medicine. Besides misplacing the problem on injury victims, as this report argues, it is not even an accurate reflection of the practical care provided.

In addition, the study took a look at tort reform efforts that have passed to gauge their effect on medical care and liability. They found that the reform efforts have little impact on improving maternal care. In addition, the report admitted that the significant majority of claims are caused by actual substandard care. Assumptions about widespread frivolous lawsuits are now not even defended by serious industry groups.

The report goes on to explain how serious studies have found that only 2% of patients injured during childbirth ever file a legal claim. In other words, there are many more harmed patients than there are lawsuits. In explaining the reality, one study author explained, “We found that in the practice of an average obstetrician-gynecologist, negligent injury of mothers and newborns appears to occur more frequently than any claim and far more frequently than any payout or trial."

Our Chicago birth injury lawyers hope industry professionals take these issues to heart, and focus on improving maternal care. In addition, we urge all mothers who may have been harmed during birth to contact our legal professional for guidance on how the law applies in these cases.

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Defending the Justice Rights of Those Harmed By Preventable Errors

Birth Injury Case at Center of U.S. Supreme Court Deliberations

October 23, 2012

Mother's Mental Health & Risk of Birth Complications

An interesting extended interview in the Huffington Post this week talks about an issue that is likely important to mothers across the country: How does mental health affect childbirth? In our work with families whose children have suffered significant injury as a result of mistakes during delivery, most our of focus is naturally on the standards of care that doctors and other medical professionals are required to exhibit during the process. The laws hinge on those issues, and so understanding those dynamics is critical to evaluating birth injury lawsuits.

Yet, we appreciate that many different factors play a role in these situations as well. All comprehensive investigations into birth injuries, complications, and the long-term health impact of the mother and child must take everything into account--including the often forgotten issues of mental health. The latest article offers a wide-ranging discussion of these issues and it worth a read.

Childbirth & Mood
The author--a documentary filmaker and worldwide birthing safety advocate--discusses how one confusing issue related to birth injuries and complications invovles mental health particularly perinatal mood disorders and postpartum depression. In an interview with a medical doctor, the story reveals that these mood disorders are incredibly common even though they remain somewhat forgotten. The doctor admitted that, "perinatal mood disorders have been named the most common complication associated with childbirth."

The doctor goes on to note that mental health issues are often neglected because there are other more pressing concerns regarding childbirth needs. Understandably, that is particularly true in the developing world, where access to even basic healthcare during childbirth is a struggle. It is reasonable that issues of perinatel mood disorders and postpartum depression are less of a focus in places where getting adequate food and water each day is a struggle. Yet, at the same time, the expert notes that it is a mistake to discount both the short and long-term consequences of these mental health issues of the mother and child. This is true during the pregnancy, chilbirth, and in the early years of the child's development.

The maternal care expert interviewed for the story explained, that her "longtime concern, however, is that we have not widened the [...] conversation to include the mental wellbeing of the mother and her offspring. If a mother isn't thriving psychologically, her baby experiences the ramifications."

Comprehensive Care
Few things are more important to local families that ensuring they are able to have happy and healthy younger generations. This goal is true no matter where one lives, from here in Chicago to the far corners of the world. At the end of the day, the basic principles that make that goal most likely to occur are the same everywhere. Those principles include medical care free of neglect and maternal suppor that takes all issues (including mental health concerns) into account. It is important that local families do everything in their power to ensure they receive comprehensive care.

That includes proper prenatal and postnatal care. Sadly, many pregant women in our community do not receive the care they need during their pregnancy. It is not uncommon for some mothers to have little to no guidance or support during the pregnancy itself. In addition, in some cases, mistakes may even be made during the delivery. When made by medical professionals violating the standard of care, those mistakes might be signs of medical malpractice. In those cases, the affected mothers have legal rights to ensure accountability and redress to help themselves and their children recover from any harm suffered.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Cerebral Palsy Develops After Delayed C-Section

New Illinois Birth Injury Lawsuit Filed

October 18, 2012

New Grant to Fund Investigations in Pelvic Injuries During Birth

The National Institute of Health (NIH) recently issued a rather large grant award to one university to look into issues related to pelvic damage during birth and the long-term complications that might accrue down the road. According to a recent report on the issue, researchers at the University of Michigan received the funds to study "birth-related pelvic floor injuries and their relationship to pelvic floor disorders like urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse." This refers to a common but often little-understood muscle injury that frequently occurs during childbirth.

According to the press release announcing the grant, this latest award is for $5.2 million. This brings the total awarded to the university in grants to understand the pelvic floor injury problem up to $15 million. This latest grant--the third for the research team--was provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health for Specialized Centers of Research (SCOR) on Sex Differences and the Office for Research on Women's Health.

The need for the research and the goals are clear. More than 300,000 women are forced to undergo surgeries each year for pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence as a result of injuries they suffered during childbirth. With better understanding of how those injuries arise and lead to subsequent complications, the idea it to slowly lower the total number of women affected annually. Researchers have long known that vaginal birth vastly increase the risk of pelvic organ prolapse, but the precise link between the birth and the injury are mostly unknown. Of course, with expanded knowledge on the topic medical professionals with hopefully be able to both develop better treatment options for those affected as well as more benficial prevention tools to protect women who give birth vaginally.

It is perhaps surprising that there has not been more discussion of this issue, becase it is quite common and has serious affects on the lives of many mothers. For example, the story shares information about one new mother who experienced severe pelvic discomfort following the birth of her child. At first, never having given birth before, she thought the discomfort was the "new normal"--something she would just have to get used to. But over the years things only got worse. She began having significant urinary leakage. She also had more and more pain in that area. Even laughing, coughing, or performing certian basic exercises caused extreme discomfort. It wasn't until later that she learned that she suffered from pelvic organ prolapse and needed surgery. The underlying problem was an injury that she had suffered during childbirth.

The mother in the above example, like many young mothers, go years without dealing with these issue. This allows the problems to worsen and forces the moms to suffer in silence. That should never happen. As one of the lead researchers on this new project noted: "Since a lot of women do not consistently see a physician for themselves after child bearing, it would be helpful to arm delivering physicians with tools to diagnose and treat the problem since it may be years before a mother will see a doctor again."

Hopefully these research efforts bear fruit and new knowledge can be applied to helping mothers prevent or treat these painful injuries.

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New Illinois Birth Injury Filed

New Study on the Safety of Vaginal Births

September 20, 2012

Actress Tori Spelling Suffers Birth Injury--Example of C-section Risks

Childbirth comes with inherent risks--it is a major trauma on the body for the mother and a delicate process for the new child. Yet, because it occurs so frequently and is a natural part of the human experience, those inherent risks are often downplayed. Usually it is only after a tragedy that community attention is yet again reminded of the need to be incredibly vigilant about all aspects of this process.

The recent hospitalization of actress Tori Spelling is also a reminder of the dangers of the process. Spelling gave birth to her fourth child three weeks ago. The baby was born via C-section on August 30th. Uniquely, this was Spelling’s second child in one year. She gave birth to her third baby in October of last year. That prior birth was also via C-section. That means Spelling had two C-sections within eleven months of each other.

However, this week the mother suffered some problems. She apparently needed emergency surgery due to complications from the most recent C-section birth. The representative for Spelling did not provide many more details about what might have gone wrong.

Dangers of Multiple C-Sections
Those familiar with childbirth risks note that multiple C-sections often come with inherent risks. For example, one doctor noted in a Fox News story on the situation that “if there are short intervals in between, it can make the healing process more difficult.” The doctor went on to note that some of the most common reasons requiring emergency surgery after a Cesarean section include a bowel obstruction, bladder damage, vaginal bleeding, or an infectious abscess needing to be drained.

However, the medical professional also noted that there is a chance (though less likely) that the doctors left some instrument inside the mother’s body. Unfortunately, potential medical mistakes are always at play.

The long-term consequences following these cases run the gamut, but no surgery is without risk. Also, it is not uncommon for a mother to lose her uterus following more advanced problems after a C-section.

All of these issues regarding C-section complications have been hotly debated in the medical community. Surgical births always come with more complications, but they are absolutely critical in some situations to prevent harm in problematic vaginal births. In addition, there is disagreement about whether it is ever prudent to have a vaginal birth after a C-section (VBAC). In the past these procedures were deemed too risky, but some argue that, in the right circumstances they might be appropriate.

None of this is to say that having more than one C-section is never a reasonable action. However, it does mean that special precautions must be taken at all times when these particular risks are at play. Medical professionals must act prudently to account for the potential complications. They may not be able to prevent all harm. But when complications arise and a medical professional did not do everything reasonable to minimize the dangers, then it might be prudent to contact an attorney.

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Uterine Rupture and Birth Injuries

New Study Tests Risks of Vaginal Births After C-Section

September 18, 2012

Midwife Faces Charges After Trying to Hide Connection to Problematic Birth

The Daily Mail reported this week on child abuse charges filed against a midwife after attempts to cover up birthing complications.

According to the story, the midwife was helping a mother during a birth in late August of this year. The delivery was a breech--with the child positioned to be born feet first instead of head first as is normal. Unfortunately, serious problems developed for both the child and mother. But the midwife brushed it all off and pretended as if everything was fine. Specifically, the baby was born with severe bleeding on the brain and retina damage. In addition, the mother’s placenta was not delivered which led to an infection when the placenta became toxic.

However, regardless of the midwife’s assurances that things were fine, the family noticed something was wrong two days after the birth. They took the child to a local hospital.

Midwife Birth Injury Cover-Up
The midwife told the family not to tell the hospital that she was involved in the delivery. That is because she was apparently “having problems with her Midwifery license.” Eventually, the family did not follow those orders and told the medical professionals about the midwife’s assistance. Shortly thereafter the midwife was arrested. The charges involved intimidation of a witness and child abuse. In a subsequent court hearing the intimidation charge was dropped, but a judge found enough evidence for the child abuse charges to stand.

For her part the midwife’s attorneys argued in court that no birth is without risks, and natural complications are what developed here. The state’s Midwives Association voiced support for their member, noting that it seemed unfair that the woman would face criminal charges for an adverse outcome in a birth. They elaborated that a system is in place to investigate potential negligence or unreasonable conduct. This system is embodied in the civil justice system, without need for criminal charges.

Illinois Birth Injury Lessons
What can this story tell us about the reality of birth injuries in our state? For one thing, it is yet another reminder of the fragility of the situation. There is no way around it, childbirth always comes with risks to both the mother and child. Sometimes accidents will arise that could not have been prevented. At other times the caregiver will make a mistake and cause harm.

In addition, this story should give pause to all families who do suffer complications during birth--whether at a hospital or via midwife. Unfortunately, when mistakes are made, the first instinct for many involved parties is not to admit responsibility and do whatever possible to make the situation right. Instead, many clam up and cover up--focusing on protecting themselves and not helping those hurt as a result of preventable errors.

It is not easy to reverse course and get those involved to be open and honest about what happened. In many cases it requires legal action and the advocacy of an attorney to get answers. The birth injury attorneys at our Chicago firm work with families across Illinois on these issues. When negligence is involved the civil justice system ensures those hurt receive redress for their losses.

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Doctors Explain How Medical Malpractice May Cause Cerebral Palsy

Lawsuit Alleges Cerebral Palsy Caused By Birth Injury

September 12, 2012

Identify Cerebral Palsy Early in Children

Cerebral palsy is a well-known illness often caused by complications during childbirth. CP actually refers to a range of conditions that affect one’s movements, posture, and balance. In that way, it is not a condition that affects all sufferers the same--there is spectrum of severity that ranges quite wide.

One complication with cerebral palsy is that, even when the underlying injury (to the brain) occurs during birth, the actual long-term effect on the child is not readily apparent. Instead, medical professionals are usually only able to identify various risk factors to CP development. In many cases the potential for harm is high, because of serious problems during birth. For example, premature infants are at a higher risk because of they have had less time to develop At other times, there child may show signs of fetal distress and have oxygen deprived to their brain for a prolonged period of time. All of these challenges may result in the child suffering from CP.

Early Cerebral Palsy Identification Is Crucial
Cerebral palsy is not evident until a child develops and shows signs of various challenges. The specific difficulties will range considerably, depending on the severity of the CP. Yet, no matter what, early identification of the condition is crucial. That is because treatment, education, and support for these children goes a long way in helping them deal with the challenges they will face as a result of their injury. A recent Times India story touched on the crucial role that parents can play in watching for early signs of cerebral palsy in their youngsters.

The story notes how one of the earliest signs of CP is a delay in an infant’s ability sit up and hold their neck. Similarly, irregularities with food intake weight gain, and fevers may also be signs of problems. In general, child growth experts explain that by three months of age most children will be able to hold their neck up and concentrate on objects. By six months most will begin to sit up and turn. By nine months the baby usually crawls and stands, with walking occurring not much after that. Of course, none of these rough guidelines are iron-clad dates, but they offer a helpful general guide to understand whether more professional help should be sought out.

Unfortunately, there is still a lack of awareness of these potential problems. One doctor interviewed for the story explains that, “There are certain milestones which the parents should monitor. More efforts are needed to make parents aware of the causes and to sensitize them about the prevention and treatment of this illness.”

Fortunately, treatments are available which can help significantly. Physiotherapy is often crucial. Various other forms of assistance are also available, depending on the child’s specific symptoms. For example, medicines are available to help with muscle tightening and spasticity. Surgeries, exercises, use of medical devices, and other options are also hugely beneficial. However, not identifying the possible problem means that the child loses precious time, with their recovery often stunted indefinitely.

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New Tool to Aid Those with Cerebral Palsy

Lawsuit Alleges Cerebral Palsy Caused by Birth Injury

September 10, 2012

Financial Struggles Following a Birth Injury

Some criticize filing a lawsuit following a birth injury under the assumption that it is better to just move on. After all, a lawsuit will not change the fact that the injury occurred, right? And so what is the point of pointing fingers and engaging in a legal battle over something that is over and done with? On top of that, lawyers working on these cases often deal with accusations that these cases are all about money—a power grab or get rich quick scheme.

Because of these opinions it is crucial to explain the reality of life for those whose children suffer a serious injury at birth. The sad fact remains that there is a huge difference in care provided to those children whose parents have a way to pay for the treatment they need versus children who are forced to rely on state support for survival. The difference between the long-term prospects for those children is large. For that reason, it is entirely logical and prudent for families to seek accountability from the wrongdoer when the underlying injury was caused by negligence.

Surviving After a Birth Injury
Cerebral palsy is perhaps the most well-known injury affecting children at birth. Those with cerebral palsy often need a wide range of support--which is expensive. How does a family provide that support? On one hand, the family may have means on their own to pay for things like daunting medical bills, special equipment, lifelong extra educational care, nursing support, and more. But these costs eventually reach hundreds of thousands (even millions) of dollars. Most families do not have that money.

So what is their alternative?

The only other option is to rely on support for state and federal assistance programs—funded by taxpayers. But it would be remiss to say that the public support is just as good as anything provided by those with their own means. It isn’t. Budget problems are well-known, and so support for individuals with special challenges (like those suffering from cerebral palsy), keep getting cut.

In addition, the living arrangements for children with cerebral palsy are limited when funds are provided by the public. For example, in some state children with cerebral palsy may be sent to live in nursing homes (traditionally reserved for elderly community members). A recent story in the Mason County Daily News, for example, explores how the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Florida for potential violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act in just this regard.

According to the story, some children with cerebral palsy (and other disabilities) are being forced out of their homes and moved into institutions. Many parents of these children wish they could live with them, but the state does not provide at-home support services. The families do not have the money to pay for the at-home support on their own, and so the children often languish away from their family and friends in nursing homes for years.

Birth Injury Lawsuits
The bottom line is that there is a world of difference between life for a child with cerebral palsy who has an independent means of support and those who rely on public bodies for financial help.

Those who cause serious injury to others have a responsibility to pay for the consequences of that injury. This should not be a controversial idea. Once we get away from the misleading belief about these lawsuits being a money-grab, we can get to the truth about why fair access to the civil justice system in these cases it of the utmost importance. Pursuing the best for our children should matter to everyone, no matter what difficulties the child faces down the road.

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Birth Injury Case Spurs Questions About Med Mal Jury Instructions

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September 7, 2012

Do Pregnancy Management Problems Lead to Maternal Deaths?

The Press-Gazette posted a story this week on a rally outside in downtown area by those calling for changes to birthing methods. The rally sent a clear message that community members cannot stand by when safety during childbirth is at issue. Life and death hangs in the balance whenever a mother goes in to give birth, and it is incumbent that medical caregivers act appropriately at all times.

Birth Injury Rally
According to the story over sixty people attending the downtown rally. It was organized by a group called “Improving Birth” which extols “evidence based” birthing practices. The underlying cause, participants say, was concern about the current state of maternal care in America. This concern is mirrored by many lawyers working on cases involving birth injury. While advances in medicine and true marvels of life-saving techniques exist, the number of injuries and deaths related to childbirth remain concerningly high.

Some push off the poor injury and death rates as indications of the inherent dangers in all childbirths, not any particular problem with current care methods. Yet, reformers argue that while childbirth involves risk, the current state of care in the U.S. during birth is deficient. They point to statistics which show that the United States is an abysmal 47th in the world for maternal death rate--far below most other advanced Western democracies. This translates into 21 deaths for every 100,000 live births; placing us on par with Iran and Hungary.

For rally participants the fix needs to come from hospitals themselves, as they urged administrators to review current birthing policies. Some participants argued that current practices do not mesh with the best science. Part of the argument concerns use of artificial means to give birth. One participant argued that “the state we’re in has women not trusting our bodies, believing we can’t give birth without machines, and its not true.”

In addition, others point to a lack of access to quality health care as a crucial cause of the relatively high maternal death rate. Facility shortages and poor quality care were cited as the main culprits in two reports on the issue published in the Association for Reproductive Health Professional’s Contraception Journal.

One of the specific claims made by rally participants were concerns about unnecessarily induced labor. Some local families experienced significant side effects following induction complications. These problems arise, in part, via the medications used to induce the labor,increasing the strength and frequency of contractions.

Birth Injury Lawsuits
The argument made by participants of this rally touch on some legal issues as they pertain to accountability following a birthing error. All civil lawsuits seek to identify “reasonable care” in any given situation. That determination of reasonableness (one would hope) would be rooted in evidence-based practices. Though, determining exactly what actions fall into that category and what do not is often tricky to delineate. Parsing through the arguments and comparing with conduct elsewhere is a key part of the effort and an underlying theme in all legal cases following allegations of misconduct during childbirth.

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Birth Injury Case Spurs Questions About Med Mal Jury Instructions

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July 31, 2012

Potential Uses of Cord Blood For Cerebral Palsy Treatment

Each Chicago cerebral palsy attorney at our firm works with local families whose youngsters have cerebral palsy as a result of negligence during their birth. This is a far too common occurrence that results in lifelong complications for the child which could have been avoided. Legal accountability in these cases is essential to spur proper safety changes which might prevent other families from going through the same issues. In addition, the redress provided by a suit ensures that the affected children will have access to the resources they need to deal with the injury as well as possible.

While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, having access to proper treatments often makes a huge difference in the life of those fighting the condition. In fact, access to proper resources is likely to grow even more important as medical advances progress, hopefully opening up new medical options for affected families.

Cord Blood Trials
For example, as summarized in a new Scoops San Diego article, cord blood may hold the key to helping those who developed cerebral palsy as a birth injury. The story explains that right now over 2 million Americans are suffering from cerebral palsy and face mobility, mental developments, and sensory complications as a result. But more help may be on the way.

That is because cord blood (and the stem cell therapies that can grow from it) may allow cutting edge research to improve the lives of these community members. The story discusses a new clinical trial testing whether an infusion of stem cells from the child’s own umbilical cord blood can improve various facets of the condition. This current trial involves 40 children between the ages of 2 and 12. All of the participants had cord blood from their birth stored.

Summarizing the goal, the lead researcher noted that “the hope for stem cells, really from the beginning, is that they might serve as some type of replacement for cells in the nervous system that have been destroyed or never developed properly.”

He went on to note that while stem cell research can help in many different ways, using cord blood from the child’s own birth is a safe way to begin this process. Past research and anecdotal evidence has shown that this method has potential. Also, adult stem cells have already been shown to greatly assist recovery following birth injuries.

Each Chicago cerebral palsy lawyer at our office is interested to see how this clinical trial pans out. Positive results will hopefully allow beneficial treatments to flow to more and more sufferers. In any event, whatever the current state of medical research, if you suspect that your child’s cerebral palsy might have been prevented if your medical professionals had acted differently, please get in touch with our legal professionals to learn more. These cases are complex, and so it is essential to at least understand how the law works before making any decisions. There is literally nothing to lose from visiting with attorneys experienced in these areas.

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New Tool to Aid Those with Cerebral Palsy

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May 16, 2012

Birth Injury Lawyers: “Early Offer” Legislation is Unfair and Dangerous

Each Chicago birth injury lawyer at Levin & Perconti understands the inherent adverse relationship in all medical malpractice lawsuits, including those related to childbirth. Obviously, one party is claiming that mistakes were made requiring legal remedy. Usually the other side contests that the error was made at all—though in many cases the disagreement is based on the quantity of the necessary redress instead of the underlying negligence.

No matter how contentious the disagreement, however, the ethical rules of the legal professional dictate how each side treats the other and rules by which the disagreement is resolved. While popular culture may suggest otherwise, legal suits are not no-holds-barred battles. There are principles of fairness underlying it all. Each side collects evidence, makes their case, and negotiates on a level playing field. It is obviously crucial that each side has proper legal professionals helping them at these times so that neither side is at a disadvantage.

This should be supported by all community—whatever they think about plaintiff’s attorneys or defense lawyers. That is what makes “early offer” legislation being considered in certain states particularly troubling. As we have previously discussed, these legislative proposals seek to enroll patients who have been harmed by medical malpractice into an “early offer” system. While innocuous in name, the details of this system are nothing more than unfair to the patients.

For example, Joanne Doroshow, the Executive Director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, explained in recent testimony to a New Hampshire legislative committee how the measure is incredibly unfair to patients. She noted that once the unsuspecting individual has joined the system—usually without even knowing the full extent of their injury or having legal advice—“the injured patients’ ability to collect economic compensation, like medical costs and lost wages, would be infected by conflicts of interest at every single step, beginning with allowing the medical provider to chose its own doctor to decide a patient’s damages.”

Obviously, it doesn’t take an Illinois birth injury lawyer to understand that allowing one side in a dispute to select the medical professionals to identify the extent of the injury is inherently unfair.

But the unfairness continues. Not only does the medical provider select the doctor to evaluate damages in this early offer system, but all non-economic damages are essentially tossed away. By joining the system the patient is giving up the ability to receive redress for these losses.

Proponents of the bill claim that this doesn’t matter because patient can reject the “early offer” that is made after entering the system. However, what proponents fail to mention is that by rejecting the early offer the only way that those hurt by this negligence can recover anything at all is meeting a burden of proof far higher than required in the regular civil justice system—or that would have been required had they rejected the early offer from the beginning. This burden is almost impossible to meet.

What all of this means is this: Patients may very well be tricked into entering this early offer system. Once in it, the hospital picks a doctor to evaluate the damages to the patients. The hospital then makes an “early offer” based on that assessment. The patient can reject the offer, but if they do, they may recover nothing. Their only recourse is to file a regular civil lawsuit using a far higher burden than usually possible to meet.

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April 4, 2012

Regenerative Medicine May be Key to Helping Cure Birth Injuries

Science Daily published an article last week that is likely of interest to those in our area whose children have suffered an Illinois birth injury or defect. As our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers know, many of the injuries sustained by children during development in the womb or birth are currently without a cure. Repairing physical malformations, brain injuries and other ailments are usually beyond the ability of our current leading medical experts. However, one area of medicine that offers clear hope in the future for helping some who have suffered these injuries in “regenerative medicine.” As one might expect, regenerative medicine refers to treatments that allows the body to heal itself or re-grow various body parts in order to cure ailments. The field combines chemistry, biology, and engineering to focus on the growth of tissues and organs. Stem cells and their growth capabilities often lie at the heart of regenerative treatments.

According to the new article, nanofilaments and “noodle gels” may be the latest tools in regenerative medicine. This is according to a lecture presented last week at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. The lecturer, Dr. Samuel I. Stupp, suggested that the synthetic objects represent a major chemical advance in the area of regenerative medicine. Dr. Stupp is from Northwestern University and is the director of BioNanotechnology in Medicine.

The Illinois birth injury lawyers realize that a large part of the regenerative medicine challenge is figuring out ways to coax different cells in the body to conduct various repairs. The nanofilaments are one way to do that. The cells are a nanostructure composed of small pieces of protein which automatically glue themselves together. It is important to keep the size of these objects in perspective. If 50,000 of them were put together they would still not be as wide as a human hair.

Essentially these objects act as a scaffold upon which other things can be built. For example, medical experts were able to use the objects to form new blood vessels in mice. This was done by attaching a signaling substance called VEGF that is used to promote blood vessel re-growth. In the past, using VGEF by itself in the body was insufficient, because the material quickly broke down. However, by growing over the nanofilment scaffolding, the VEGF is given more time to spur growth that lasts. Over time (a few weeks) the nanofilaments actually dissolve and disappear. However, the growth that was spurred, the blood vessel, stays in place.

The “noodle gels” are spaghetti like objects that may solve a long-standing regenerative medicine problem by delivering signals, proteins, and stem cells in certain directions to precisely target re-growth in certain areas. For example, if a child suffers brain damage as a result of a birth injury, the gels may be able to point the growth inducing substance to the exact spot of the brain where healing is needed. In this ways, these tools may one day allow medical professionals to “fix” problems that currently go without any remedy.

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March 7, 2012

“Chilling” of Birth Injury Victims Grows in Popularity

Every day more and more attention is being brought to a relatively new, but encouraging treatment option to help stymie some of the more damaging birth injuries. Our Illinois birth injury lawyers have discussed this process in previous blog posts. The new technique involves “cooling” the body of an infant who may have been deprived of oxygen in order to limit the damage that the deprivation causes.

As a story this week from The Gazette noted, total body cooling following traumatic births is becoming routine in many areas. Our Chicago birth injury lawyers were fascinated to learn that the science behind the cooling technique was uncovered, in part, by case studies of unique situations where children suffered little harm following accidents that should have been severe. For example, in one case a thirteen month old toddler wandered out of her house in the middle of winter. She eventually fell face down, hit her head hard of the ground and was knocked unconscious. Considering the weather, it’s a miracle that she didn’t freeze to death. When she was found she had no pulse. However, a few hours later the girl was brought back with the only injury being frostbite. This was miraculous, considering she had been without oxygen for a prolonged period of time. The oxygen deprivation, at the very least, would have been expected to leave her with permanent brain damage.

Doctors realized that the cooling she experienced in the snow actually helped to limit damage that she otherwise might have experienced. Case studies like that one coincided with research which had already suggested the hypothermia limited brain damage in animals.

Now those cooling techniques are being used to help our most vulnerable—infants who have been hurt by a birth injury. The basic idea behind the treatment is the lowering of the child’s body temperature by four degrees immediately following birth. This is accomplished by stripping the child out of clothing and having them lie on a mattress filled with ice water. The cooling is usually conducted over three days. Doctors explain that the cooling is best for those with moderate to severe brain injuries at birth. The cooling essentially “buys time” so that the baby’s brain is allowed to heal on its own.

Of course, the use of cooling to save lives and prevent injury is still in its relative infancy. Several different studies are still underway to pinpoint more clearly how and how well the treatment works. However, though research is still underway, the techniques are already in use in many areas and being credited with saving lives and preventing disability.

For example, the Gazette shared the story of a baby born via a planned C-section. The child was born limp and was not breathing. It wasn’t until later that it was discovered that the child had meningitis. However, before even knowing exactly what the cause, the medical care providers acted quickly to being the cooling process. The child was transferred to a different hospital that specialized in the treatment. The baby’s temperature was dropped four degrees, and the child ultimately survived with no apparent long-term complications.

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February 18, 2012

Cooling Cap Improve Oxygen Deprived Infant Survival Rates

Few birth injuries can lead to more lifelong harm than those that affect an infant’s brain. It is not hard to understand why. The brain is the body’s main control center. Virtually every aspect of one’s life—from movement and mental function to personality—is affected or controlled in one way or another by a child’s brain. Lack of oxygen to the brain during birth is by far the most common way that a child suffers a brain injury during their delivery that affects the rest of their lives. For example, our Illinois cerebral palsy lawyers have worked with many families whose infants have developed cerebral palsy because their medical providers did not act in a timely fashion to signs that the infant’s brain was being deprived of oxygen.

Considering the long-term consequences of these injuries, all steps which can lessen the impact of oxygen deprivation have the potential to spare much suffering. Fortunately, advances are being made on that front. A story in The Standard Examiner this week explored the ways that medical experts are working to prevent harm to infants whose brains were starved of oxygen during their birth. For example, the story of one girl born last summer was shared. The child was born in the morning on a mid-July day in 2011. At first nothing seemed wrong, and the first eight hours were joy-filled ones for the family as they bonded with their new addition.

Eventually, however, something went wrong. Without notice the child stopped breathing. The girl’s mother was holding her at the time. As she laid the child against her chest she had an intuition that something wasn’t right. The child wasn’t responding. When she pulled her body away from her chest she realized immediately that the child’s body was limp and turning blue. The family called for help. Two nurses rushed into the room, took the child, and ran her down the hallway.

Of course the family was left in a state of shock—not knowing how long the child had been without oxygen or whether she was going to pull through. Down the hall, the medical professionals worked heroically to save the baby. They were able to revive the child and she was put on a ventilator. Shortly afterward the baby was taken to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit. It was there that the doctors put a “cooling cap” on the child. The cap seeks to induce hypothermia. The cooling of the brain often prevents brain damage from spreading (or occurring at all). As a result of the cooling cap, the child in the case was spared harm. Now 6-months old, the baby is on track developmentally—crawling, sitting up on her own, and very alert and responsive.

Our Chicago birth injury attorneys applaud the great workers on the doctors in this and similar situations who engage in quick-thinking and top-notch care to save the lives of young infants. Birth injuries are terrifically frightening for all the families involved. When proper care is provided, as in this case, the suffering that is prevented is tremendous. All families deserve to have this reasonable standards of treatment met when their own children suffer medical problems during or shortly after birth.

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Scottish Doctors Develop Cooling Jacket to Help Prevent Brain Damage

The Brain Tsunami

February 13, 2012

New Research Into Reversing Brain Damage Birth Injuries

Few Illinois birth injuries are as challenging as those involving the brain. Cognitive function, social adeptness, motor skills, attention problems, and many other issues arise when a child experiences a brain injury at birth. Experts have long-known that premature infants are at an increased risk of experiencing these problems. Neonatal brain injuries among premature infants are shockingly high. Some researchers suggest that upwards of fifty percent of premature infants have some form of brain problems—often mild—as a result of their early birth. A smaller, but still substantial minority of preterm infants have very severe cognitive and motor skill problems. This group represents about five percent of premature infants and includes those with more severe deficiencies like cerebral palsy.

Unfortunately, our Chicago cerebral palsy lawyers know that medical researchers have yet to pinpoint any ways that the damage caused by these brain problems can be undone. There has been much new knowledge discovered about ways to help victims reach their potential and cope with their particular vulnerabilities. However, that is different than reversing any damage that has already been done. As it now stands the problem is irreversible, which is one of the reasons that birth injury lawsuits are filed—to ensure those affected have resources to deal with the lifelong consequences of the harm.

However, new research suggests that steps are slowly being made that might one day offer real positive ways to help victims actually reverse brain damage caused by problems at birth. The effort, discussed last week in Medical Xpress News was presented at the latest Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s annual meeting.

The research used young rats with brain injuries that mimicked neonatal brain damage in preterm delivery. Doctors involved in the effort explained that stem cells were taken and transplanted into the rats brains. The result was that the brains were able to be successfully implanted and integrated into the animal organ. The cells also seemed to help create neurologic improvement—actually reversal of some brain damage.

Much more work needs to be done to further hone in on the best ways to use these power of the stem cell to achieve brain growth. However, this first step is an important one which counsels toward the overall long-term efficacy of this line of research. One researcher explained, “stem cells are a promising source for transplant after a brain injury because they have the ability to divide throughout life and grow into any one of the body’s more than 200 cells, which can contribute to the ability to renew and repair tissues.”

In other words, when more information is known, the cells may one day be able to be inserted into an injured brain and spur healing. This is obviously an incredibly powerful tool that could fundamentally change the way that we look at these injuries. The ability to heal damage, instead of just control it, is an encouraging sign that must be explored as much as possible. We will be sure to follow along as these efforts continue.

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February 4, 2012

Therapeutic Horseback Riding Growing in Popularity for Children with Special Needs

Our Illinois cerebral palsy attorneys work hard to help those children whose condition was caused by mistakes made during their birth. This work serves two main purposes. On one hand, when medical professionals are held accountable for their actions, there is a greater likelihood that steps will be taken to ensure that their work is done as safely as possible. In all fields, including medicine, accountability breeds improvement. The second purpose of birth injury lawsuits is to provide fair redress to those hurt in the ordeal.

Unfortunately, many families do not receive compensation and resources to care for their loved one—even when it was caused by the mistakes of another. In these situations, the children suffering from injuries like cerebral palsy fail to have access to the different resources they need to grow and learn as much as possible. Many of these children never reach their potential, often failing to live as independently as they might down the road.

Our Illinois cerebral palsy attorneys are encouraged by the progresses that have been made in recent years when it comes to treatments and therapies for those suffering from cognitive problems, such as cerebral palsy. Many novel approaches are helping youngsters with a range of disabilities. For example, the NWI Times reported on a therapeutic riding program that assists children with special needs. The program is known as “hippotherapy.”

The article shares the story of one little girl who was born with cerebral palsy. Before she began participating in the therapeutic riding sessions she could not walk and was unable to sit on a horse alone. Now, after frequent participation in the program she is able to sit on the horse alone, steer, and groom it. Amazingly, not long ago volunteers at the facility also saw the girl take steps unassisted for the first time in her life. The girl’s mother admitted, “There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle, but I really think the hippotherapy was a major part in my daughter’s walking.”

The particular hippotherapy program serving the girl is close to the Chicagoland area, in Michigan City. The program, known as Reins of Life, has offered these therapy sessions since 1978 and serves about 100 students each week. Children with cerebral palsy are not the only ones who participate in the effort. Program organizers explain that those with autism, ADHD, and others conditions have also benefitted from the sessions. The director explained that they teach riding skills but also help with emotional, social, physical, and cognitive goals. Family members of the child participants report that the sessions often provide a needed self-esteem boost for participants.

Not all children with cerebral palsy can be guaranteed certain advances simply by following a single set of therapies. Not enough is yet known about the condition to say for sure what will work and what wont in every case. However, it is clear that nothing will work if the child and his or her family do not have access to resources to pay for various treatment options. Providing the resources needed to do these things is an important part of our work.

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January 11, 2012

Fraudulent Doctors Sell False Hope of Yet Undeveloped Stem Cell Research

Working with Illinois birth injury victims, our medical malpractice attorneys have become familiar with the many emotional issues that following the physical harm caused by the situation. Parents grapple every day with trying to balance the honest hopes for their children and a realistic assessment of what challenges they will likely face throughout their lives. When we file a birth injury lawsuit on their behalf, one of the main goals is always ensuing that the child will have access to the resources he or she needs to lessen those challenges and maximize their potential.

However, we all understand that there is no amount of money that can eliminate those challenges entirely. That is why many in the legal field, particularly on the plaintiff’s side, explain that while the goal of civil lawsuits is to “make the victim whole,” in reality they can never be made whole. Damage awards are inherently insufficient, but they are the best we can do under the circumstances.

Having worked with many families who have faced the reality that their child will never be completely without challenges, our Chicago birth injury lawyers were disgusted to watch a 60 Minutes news segment this week about doctors knowingly providing false hope to many of these families. If you’ve got fifteen minutes free, take a moment to watch the video HERE.

The gist of the story is the fact that some unscrupulous medical providers are using exaggerated promises about the effect of stem cell research to give families of children with conditions like cerebral palsy false hope about the current extent of the research’s potential. While stem cell research has a lot of potential, the truth is that no stem cell research miracle is available today. We cannot yet repair damaged cells, and so claims to the contrary are essentially cons that both dash hopes of victims while trying to take money from them.

Unfortunately, the 60 minutes story noted that there is actually a rapidly growing trend in fake stem cell cures. Not only that but now investigators have found that there are some egregious hucksters that are selling dangerous “at-home” stem cell injection plans. Besides costing families money, these injections also have the potential to severely harm the innocent victims involved.

A brief search online yields professional looking websites seeking to sell stem cell treatments for a wide range of disease—including many incurred during birth. It is easy to see how families desperate for anything that may improve the life of their loved one might take the time to contact one of these apparently sophisticated operations in an effort to learn more. However, they should be avoided at all costs. As one victim explained, people who have already suffered these losses, “don’t need any more expense, don’t need any more heartache, and don’t need any more false promises.”

We encourage all readers to be on the look-out for these frauds. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. As always it is important to get second (and third) opinions when your suspicions are aroused as to the reliability or credibility of those involved in these and similar matters.

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January 4, 2012

Six-Year Old Girl with Cerebral Palsy Walks for First Time After Groundbreaking Surgery

The inherent nature of the work of a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer usually places the attorney at odds with medical professionals and hospitals. Of course we only get involved in cases where medical care went awry and mistakes were made which cause harm. Yet, the nature of our work may create the impressions that our attorneys always assume that birth injuries are caused by medical negligence or that all medical professionals present a risk to patients. These are unfortunate assumptions. Our birth injury lawyers, just like the rest of the community, understand the absolutely critical role that medical professionals play in all of our lives. The majority of doctors provide fantastic care in day in and day out. Some birth defects are simply impossible to prevent.

It is important from time to time to recognize the amazing work that many medical professionals conduct, particularly in helping those who suffered a birth injury reach their full potential. For example, the Daily Mail Online published a story this week on a six year old girl who suffers from cerebral palsy who was able to walk for the first time following a pioneering nerve surgery.

The family learned that the surgical option maybe available to them after reading a story about another young boy with cerebral palsy who was able to walk after having the new operation—known as Selective Dorsal Rhiztomy surgery. To pay for the procedure, the family conducted an intensive fundraising drive to raise $70,000 to pay for the expense of the procedure. After months of hard work and drives, the family ultimately raised more than $95,000 and the door was opened for the girl to have the procedure.

This summer, on the little girl’s birthday, her family set off for the surgery. The procedure itself lasted four hours in addition to a tendon lengthening surgery over the course of a few weeks. On top of that the girl undergoes rigorous physiotherapy three times each week. The progress has been slow, but even the little things make a huge difference for the girl and her family. Unlike before the operation, the girl can now sit on the sofa on her own without falling down. Whereas before the girl needed splints up her whole leg, she now only has small splints on her ankles. She eventually may not even need those smaller splints at all. The six year old gushes that she loves the fact that she can now fit into sparkly Princess shoes, which she couldn’t when she was wearing larger splints.

The surgery which the family learned about is a unique neurological technique that treats spasticity in the lower limbs. Spasticity refers to increased muscle tone in those limbs. The process works by opening the lower vertebrae to reveal the spinal cord containing the neurons of the central nervous system. This is the bundle of nerves that sends messages from the brain to the rest of the body. Electrical currents are then used to identify the sensory and motor nerves. Those currents continue to be used until the specific nerves which affect the spastic muscle movement in the victim is identified. These are the nerves which are not transmitting properly. Those nerves are then cut to eliminate or at least improve the motor problems.

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January 1, 2012

Costs Are High for Families Caring for Child After Birth Injury

Critics of the legal system often argue that families would be better off by putting tragedies behind them and not seeking to hold wrongdoers accountable for their conduct. The argument goes that while it is regrettable that doctor, nurses, and other medical personnel make mistakes that harm patients, there is little to gain from filing a medical malpractice lawsuit to provide redress for the harm caused. It is best to forget about the incident and move on as best as possible. Of course, this argument misses the critical point that it is impossible for most victims to actually move on. That is because the consequences of these accidents usually last a lifetime. Our Chicago birth injury attorneys are well aware that when it comes to mistakes that affect newborns, the effects dictate the young victim’s life.

The costs of dealing with the consequences of the mistake over the course of a lifetime can be mind-boggling. Specialized therapies and medical care are often needed. Considering that the life expectancy of many of these children is often seventy to eighty years, then the overall costs of the accident reach significant amounts. A story this week at EIN News touched on the long-term effects of these birth injuries. The story noted how it is often only via use of the legal system that families have the resources they need to provide the best possible care to their injured child.

Experienced attorneys in this area can ensure that a wide range of past, present, and future medical needs are provided. For one thing, the costs of the initial hospital stay can added up quickly, depending on the time spent in labor and other more complex hospitalization and treatment issues. The child often has to spend time in a neonatal intensive care unit. At times other medical professionals have to be brought in for a second opinion. These initial costs can be recovered in a birth injury case.

Perhaps even more importantly, the child’s long-term care costs can be recovered. Depending on the injury, the child may need to have in-home nursing care around the clock. Pediatric and vocational rehabilitation are frequently necessary. Many children who suffer birth injuries also need physical and speech therapy. At the home, families are well-served when they can have personal access to medical equipment. Special schooling is frequently appropriate to help these children reach their maximum potential. All of these potential needs are factored into jury awards in verdicts and in discussions with involved parties when working to reach a settlement before trial.

The Illinois birth injury lawyers have years of experienced helping families in this situation. For example, we helped one family receive a $6.71 million verdict following a damaging birthing mistake. In that case, an inexperienced hospital resident performed a vaginal delivery on a child even though the baby was in breech position. Shoulder dystocia and a particularly severe brachial plexus arm injury resulted. The family was able to use the award to ensure that their child will receive all of the special care that he needs for the rest of his life.

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November 13, 2011

Simple Heart Defect Screenings May Save Infant Lives

As discussed yesterday, screening for potential birth defects, abnormalities, and other developmental defects in children has been the focus of significant research over the past few years. These new techniques are replacing previously invasive procedures that presented unnecessary risks to children. In many cases the new tests are allowing medical professionals to diagnose the birth problems earlier than before and provide earlier treatment. Time is often an important factor in these situations, and therefore every step that can be taken to provide earlier diagnosis may ultimately save lives.

Along those lines, NJ Spotlight recently discussed a new screening process that is available to test young infants for heart defects. The test, known as pulse oximetry, involves placing a tiny sensor on the toes of young infants measuring oxygen in his blood. The purpose is to detect low levels of oxygen, which indicate a congenital heart disease. These heart problems are a common birth defects, and failure to detect it earlier often results in serious problems for the infant; it can be fatal. These screenings procedures are new, and for the first time they allow medical experts to identify potential problems before the newborn has shown actual signs of the disease. As one involved medical expert explained, “for some of these heart lesions, early intervention is life saving.”

Just last month New Jersey became the first state to mandate this screening. Several children have already been found with heart conditions as a result of the screening, and experts believe they likely would have died had the early test not been performed. Following identification of a problem in these early detects the young victims are often able to have surgery performed to correct the problem. Following New Jersey’s actions, other states have looked at the benefit of mandating the screenings. However, many other states do not screen newborns for heart defects or other recommended blood tests. Financial situations are involved in these screening requirements, and so various states have reached different conclusions about the merits of requiring the test.

The federal government did not have the pulse oximetry on the list of federally recommended newborn screenings before New Jersey officials signed it into law. However, since that time, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary has added the test to the recommended list. At least two other states will implement the recommendations this year, and many others have proposals waiting to do that same. Clearly the more newborns who have this screening, the more lives will ultimately be saved that otherwise would have been lost.

The Chicago birth injury lawyers at our firm applaud the actions taken by those officials who are working to spread the used of this screening and ultimately saving young lives. Through the years of working will local Illinois injury victims we have come to appreciate the immense devastation caused to entire families when young children suffer through medical complications. It is particularly tragic when those problems could have been prevented. It is reasonable for families to demand that everything possible be done to prevent these problems from developing.

In Other News: Two of our companion blogs--The Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog and Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog--were nominated for inclusion as one of the Top 25 Tort Blogs of 2011. The award is part of the LexisNexis project which seeks to feature blogs that set the standard in certain practice areas and industries. The voting to narrow down the field is currently underway, and we would love to have your vote. All you have to do is add a comment at the end of the post about the Top 25 bogs.

Please Follow This Link To Vote: Vote for Our Blog. Thanks for your support!

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November 11, 2011

Lack of Oxygen to Brain May Cause Focal Dystonia Birth Injury

Our Chicago birth injury attorneys have learned over the years that there are certain trends in cases involved preventable injuries to newborns caused by medical malpractice. In perhaps more cases than not, the problems arise by medical professionals’ failure to take necessary steps in abnormal or emergency births. Of course, there is always risk in these situations that is completely out of the hands of caregivers. However, the risks of these situations does not mean that medical professionals’ failure to act reasonably is excusable when that failure leads to harm to the child or mother.

In these botched emergency births, the specific injury to the child is often a lack of oxygen to the brain. The brain requires a constant flow of blood and oxygen to thrive. When oxygen and blood are kept from the brain for a certain period of time (which happens in delayed fetal distress), then the child often develops permanent complications. One of the lesser known problems caused by lack of oxygen to the brain in childbirth is known as focal dystonia. As described in a new story in Empowher, focal dystonia is a condition that causes victims to have involuntary contractions of their muscles, often in the jaw, vocal cords, and neck.

Beyond the birth injury problem, focal dystonia can also arise in other situations. Other brains injuries can lead to the problem, such as those caused by stroke. In other situations a vitamin B12 deficiency has been known to cause it. Infections, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heavy metal poising have also been shown to cause the condition. Therefore, in many cases, focal dystonia is rooted in the negligence of others.

There are a few treatment options currently available to sufferers. Medication can be taken which affects neurotransmitters and help ease symptoms of sufferers. This includes drugs such as bromocriptine, trihexphenidyl, muscle relaxants, procyclidine HCl, carbidopa, and others. It is important to reiterate that these medications do not slow progression of focal dystonia, but instead they merely alleviate some symptoms. Of course, the medications also come with side effects of their own. Some of these drugs are known to cause sedation and memory problems. Besides medication, injections of botulinum toxin are another treatment option for the condition. These injections are often thought to be the best treatment method, because they are best at preventing muscle contractions. Usually patients need new injections every few months to ensure the contractions are kept at bay.

The Illinois birth injury lawyers at our firm encourage all those who may have developed this problem through the misconduct of another to contact legal professionals to learn about their rights. The consequences of these injuries are far reaching, and in many cases they can affect lives permanently. There is no reason why those responsible for the problems are not asked to pay for the consequences of their conduct. The civil law is designed toward that specific end, and victims need only contact proper help to use the system to protect their rights.

In Other News: Two of our companion blogs--The Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog and Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog--were nominated for inclusion as one of the Top 25 Tort Blogs of 2011. The award is part of the LexisNexis project which seeks to feature blogs that set the standard in certain practice areas and industries. The voting to narrow down the field is currently underway, and we would love to have your vote. All you have to do is add a comment at the end of the post about the Top 25 bogs.

Please Follow This Link To Vote: Vote for Our Blog. Thanks for your support!

See Our Related Blog Posts:

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October 15, 2011

Birth Defects Linked to Various Persistent Organic Pollutants

Late this week the Environmental Health News reported on new information about the effect that certain pollutants and the chemicals inside them have on pregnant woman. Of particular interest to an Illinois childbirth accident attorney, the article explained how the exposure to those pollutants increased the risk of a child suffering from neural tube defects. The particular chemicals involved in the study are known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) which include various pesticides, industrial chemicals, and compounds released from fossil fuels. The research was the first to actually link the total number of POPs in placentas to the defects.

The study involved the examination of 80 different cases of fetuses with neural tube defects and 50 cases of healthy controls. The pollutants were then measured in the area where the mother lived. Those areas with the higher levels of pollutant chemicals were then found to lead to the increased problems. Those areas with the most problems were closest to mining and burning coal operations. The scientists also measured various chemical levels inside the placenta to get an idea of fetal exposure to those pollutants.

The birth injury at issue in this research—neural tube defects—affect the development of the brain and the spinal cord. The neural tube is the temporary part of the developing fetus that actually splits into both the brain and spinal cord during the growth process. When that neural tube fails to seal, then anencephaly and spina bifidia can arise. These defects generally result in lifelong problems for the children who suffer from them. In addition, these problems could result in spontaneous abortions and stillbirths. Worldwide more than 300,000 babies are born with these defects every year. In the United States the rate is about 30 for every 1,000 live childbirths.

Illinois birth defects have causes that range from medical malpractice and unsafe pollutants to completely random developmental problems that cannot be prevented. Medical professionals continue to uncover new information that sheds light on the exact causes of birth problems. Therefore many causes that at one time seem to be completely accidental become preventable so long as proper steps are taking. Our Chicago birth defect lawyers know that as medical knowledge grows the rules of legal liability related to Illinois birth injury lawsuits change.

This is the case because in many ways the law accounts for the awareness of those who played a role in causing these injuries. In certain context—such as product liability cases—the knowledge of the involved defendant may be irrelevant. However, in many other cases, negligence requires at least some awareness of one’s conduct. When it comes to birth defects, there could be both products liability and regular negligence aspects to a potential legal case related to those injuries. Very frequently in these cases an attorney will explain to a client that there all possible avenues for recovery should be pursued. The law is rarely a simple and straightforward process, as a variety of potential causes of actions or theories of liability may exist in any given situation.

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October 2, 2011

Family Awarded $4.5 Million Following Birth Injury Lawsuit

Many parents whose children fall victim to a birth injury suffer considerable emotional distress knowing that their child will have to face a variety of unique challenges throughout their lives. The physical and mental disabilities that these children face can requires millions of dollars in care over the course of a lifetime, not counting the lost experiences, mental, and emotional trauma that comes with these life-long problems. The Illinois childbirth accident attorneys at our firm have worked first-hand with many of these families and we know the personal struggles that are faced following preventable childbirth complications.

The well-publicized case on which we previously reported and highlighted by the Orlando Sentinel earlier this month is a good example of the consequences of these birth injuries. A jury recently awarded a family $4.5 million to help pay for the consequences of a mistake that caused their child to be born without arms and only one leg. After hearing evidence from both sides and deliberating on the matter, the jury agreed that the obstetrician and medical clinic that employed her were negligent in the care they provide to the family. The doctor’s failed to perform a proper sonogram and did not notice the child’s problem—even though reasonable medical professionals in the same circumstances would have.

The jury explained that it was clear that the obstetrician and other medical care workers failed to provide anywhere near the reasonable level of service that the family should have been able to expect. For example, the ultra sound technician wrote a report where she indicated four limbs were found. The doctor signed the report, even though neither could explain why the indicated something that wasn’t true on the report.

As a result of this latest accident and lawsuit, the medical office has changed its protocol. Different procedures are now used to ensure that all limbs are clearly identified by the medical professionals when conducting a sonogram. The spurring of important safety changes is one of the only good things to come out of this situation. The family explains that they will use the money to buy prostheses, which the child will need to have any semblance of a normal life. They will be able to purchase a wheelchair and other necessary medical care to assist with the boy’s day-to-day needs. Right now the child is three years old and unable to do most of the things other toddlers are doing.

The Illinois birth injury lawyers at Levin & Perconti are glad that the family in this case was able to receive the assistance it needs to provide for this child and spur changes at the negligent facility which will hopefully save others from suffering the same problems. All professionals working in these situations know that the consequences of their work are often matters of life and death. That is why it is entirely reasonable for families to expect a certain level of care whenever they rely on these professionals to make decisions about the birth. If you or someone you know experiences a preventable birth injury, get in touch with our attorneys and learn about your legal rights.

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August 29, 2011

Hypothermia Treatment for Lack of Oxygen Birth Injuries

Our Illinois birth injury attorneys are very interested in the new technique of therapeutic hypothermia as a method to try to help newborns that suffer from a birth injury due to a lack of oxygen. Unfortunately, as many as one out of every one thousand babies born suffer from some level of oxygen deprivation at birth. While often times this problem is very short lived and the doctor can restore oxygen to the baby immediately, other times due to either the doctor’s negligence or a complication that arises, the baby is without oxygen for a longer period of time and may suffer from serious developmental injuries as a result of being without oxygen.

A newer treatment for birth-related brain injuries has been developed, in which the baby is cooled to levels that induce hypothermia for a period of time, in which the baby has as high as a 50% chance of recovering from the lack of oxygen injury over babies that were not given the cooling treatment. When babies suffer a lack of oxygen for too long and no treatment works, they may have permanent develop cerebral palsy and a permanent brain injury. Because these results can be so devastating to the baby and the family, it is great to find new treatments that may help to eliminate this problem. While the hypothermia treatment does not work in all cases where the baby suffers from a lack of oxygen birth injury the treatment has been shown to work in a number of cases and has helped many babies recover fully and not suffer permanent developmental issues.

While this process seems to work well for treating newborn babies that have suffered from a lack of oxygen, the cooling process is not an easy one, as it takes time and certain facilities to carry it out properly. According to The Los Angeles Times, only very advanced level of neonatal centers are able to do this type of procedure at this time. The long term affects of a birth related brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen could be very severe on the baby and the baby’s family. When the birth injury is the result of the negligence on the part of the doctor or other hospital staff, such as if warning signs were ignored or improper procedures were used in delivering the baby, the family may file a birth injury lawsuit against the person responsible to help them in some way recover for what that person has forced the baby and family to suffer through.

If you or a loved one gave birth to a baby who suffered a permanent birth injury as a result of the way in which the delivery was handled, please do not hesitate to contact our personal injury law firm today to discuss what options you may have available to you and your family and to discuss what next steps should be taken. Our attorneys have helped clients all over Illinois recover damages for the medical bills, as well as for the pain and suffering, that the clients have been forced to deal with as a result of someone else’s negligence.

August 13, 2011

Cooling Caps May Help Brain Injuries at Birth

Unfortunately birth injuries are far more frequent than one might realize and often times occur because of negligence on the part of the doctor or the hospital and could be avoided if the proper care was taken. Our birth injury attorneys realize that many of the birth injuries that they see are a result not of the baby having complications during pregnancy but rather there being a problem during delivery. According to Todays THV, two out of every three babies that are born at full-term experience some degree of oxygen loss related to the umbilical cord cutting off their air supply or by another type of problem during the birthing process. If this happens and the problem that is causing the lack of oxygen is taken care of immediately, or if the doctor realizes that the baby in distress as they are delivering the baby and act accordingly, the doctor can hopefully fix the problem before any serious or permanent damage to the newborn baby occurs.

Birth injuries caused by a lack of oxygen to the baby during birth can end up causing serious damage if the baby is without oxygen for a long enough period of time. The lack of oxygen can cause severe brain damage and can seriously impair the baby’s developmental abilities and can even lead to death. Cerebral palsy is condition that babies sometimes develop at birth when they suffer from a lack of oxygen, and this condition often involves a great deal of developmental problems or delays that can last throughout the baby’s lifetime. However, while oxygen deprivation at birth may unfortunately be rather common, a serious injury can often be avoided if the birth doctor realizes the problem and acts immediately to restore oxygen to the baby.

One interesting way in which a birth injury due to a lack of oxygen can be helped is through the use of a “cooling cap” which can be used for babies that suffer from a temporary deprivation of oxygen to the entire brain at birth (as opposed to a lack of oxygen to a portion of the brain). This method requires that either the baby’s entire body or head is kept cool for at least 72 hours and then the baby is taken off of the ventilator and re-warmed. This process may help with damage caused from the temporary lack of oxygen to the entire brain and has been found to work on a number of babies that have suffered from this type of birth injury.

While there are certain things that can be done to try to reduce or protect against severe brain injury after birth, all of the methods require that the doctor is immediately aware that there is a problem and act quickly to try to limit the damage to the baby. If during the birthing process or immediately after the birthing process you feel that the doctor that delivered your baby did not act using the utmost care or in some way acted negligently, please contact our Illinois personal injury attorneys to discuss what options may be available for you and your family.

July 9, 2011

Birth Injuries in Illinois - The Basics

Though they are some of the most common forms of personal injury lawsuits in Illinois,birth injury cases are some of the fewest talked about, but also many of the most devastating. Statistics from the Illinois Department of Public Health show that in the years 2006-2008, approximately 27 out of every 1000 births in Illinois involved some form of birth-related injury, and another approximately 6 out of every 1000 births resulted in death as a result of health-care provider injury.

Although in some instances, birth injuries may occur by no fault of the doctors or nurses, the disturbing fact remains that many of these injuries result from negligence and/or mistakes. In a hospital full of trained health care professionals, this is simply unacceptable.


I. How they Happen
Injuries to the baby can happen at almost any stage of the delivery or labor process. When errors are made and doctors or nurses are careless, birth injuries may result. Although some babies who suffer from birth injuries may ultimately recover quickly, unfortunately many more end up suffering from permanent debilitating mental or physical conditions, treatment for which may be life-long. Some factors contributing to these injuries may include:

A. Improper monitoring or testing of the fetus prior to birth.
B. Labor difficulties resulting from the baby taking an unusual or awkward position before entering the birth canal.
C. Oxygen deprivation to the baby, often as a result of constriction of the umbilical cord.
D. And other mistakes made by doctors and nurses during the labor and delivery process, such as excessive force, or other mistakes that put the baby at risk.

Although none of those factors will concretely determine that the child will suffer a birth injury, when any of these factors are present, the risk of injuries significantly increases.


II. How they Affect Families
If a baby is unfortunately stricken with any form of birth injury, the results can be overwhelming, and may even involve permanent life-long care. Birth injury lawsuits in Illinois allow the parents to collect damages from the negligent health care providers to assist in providing care for the child throughout the duration of the child’s life. Some of these damages may include:

A. Past and future medical expenses
B. The cost of providing care for the child
C. The cost of specialized schooling for the child
D. Emotional and physical pain and suffering experienced by the child
E. The costs of future earnings that the child may have received, had he or she lived a normal life
F. And many others

As our Chicago birth injury attorneys know, in these cases, the life-long effects can be devastating, and sometimes the only way to get retribution is to have those who caused the injury help pay for the cost of future remedies. When you add up the expenses for the effects of a birth injury, it’s easy to see that future care for a birth injury is both emotionally and monetarily costly.

June 26, 2011

Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Filed After Pregnancy Complication Leads to Deadly Blood Infection

Without prompt and adequate treatment, pregnancy complications often threaten the life of a mother carrying the child as well as child itself. Illinois birth injury lawyers realize that to protect lives, doctors must properly examine and diagnose pregnant mothers who exhibit signs of infection and provide treatment to prevent the condition from worsening.

An article published recently in the Dallas Morning News shows how a treatable infection can quickly degenerate into deadly septic shock if healthcare providers fail to administer appropriate care. A woman was admitted into the hospital with an 104.8 degree fever and complaining of neck and lower back pain – characteristic signs of an infection. A sonogram showed that the woman had been 17 weeks pregnant, but the baby had died. Rather than removing the fetus immediately to address the infection and without examining the woman, doctors ordered the procedure to be performed the next morning, 16 hours later.

During the intervening hours, the woman’s condition devolved into sepsis, a severe blood infection caused by an infection in another part of the body that can result in blood clotting, multiple organ failure, and death. The woman experienced septic shock and fell into a coma that lasted for three months.

Now the woman must receive dialysis three times a week, is on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, and has suffered two strokes, brain surgery, blood clots, liver damage, a partial hysterectomy, and heart surgery. The family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit seeking redress for this pain and suffering and to cope with over $3 million in medical bills accrued so far. The hospital could have avoided all of these afflictions had the staff met the standard of care and recognized the severity of the woman’s condition on that first night.

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys have represented families who suffer when their attending physicians fail to properly diagnose and treat pregnancy complications. In June 2009, we settled a case for $5.35 million on behalf of a daughter whose mother died after her physician failed to diagnose and provide timely treatment for her postpartum cardiomyopathy. The mother arrived in the emergency room with complaints of shortness of breath and chest pain. She was not boarded in the ICU and was improperly treated in the emergency room for pneumonia, worsening her heart failure. She died 15 hours later.

Continue reading "Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Filed After Pregnancy Complication Leads to Deadly Blood Infection" »

June 14, 2011

Medical Malpractice: The sad case of shoulder dystocia

Our Chicago birth injury attorneys often receive troubling calls from heartbroken parents describing incidents of shoulder dystocia. According to a recent article from MissionLocal.org, shoulder dystocia is a birth complication often associated with, but not limited to pregnant women with diabetes. Shoulder dystocia occurs when a child’s head is delivered, but the shoulders of the child are unable to pass through the birth canal. When this occurs, the child is immediately in jeopardy of suffering serious birth injuries or even death. According to the report, sometimes doctors are able to avoid injury by quickly repositioning the child, but others aren’t so lucky.

Shoulder dystocia is one of the most dangerous birth complications. Once the head of a baby is delivered, significant strain is placed on the umbilical cord. In a typical childbirth setting this is not a problem because of the relatively short period of time between delivery of a baby’s head and shoulders. In shoulder dystocia cases, however, the prolonged stress often leads to permanent injuries.

John Perconti filed a lawsuit against Evanston Hospital in 2005 for complications suffered by Denise Juarez when the birth complication of shoulder dystocia caused her to ultimately suffer from Erb’s palsy, which is the weakness or loss of movement caused by damage to the nerve bundles at one’s shoulders.

While some cases involving shoulder dystocia can not be predicted, many others can, and failing to diagnose a fetus with a high propensity of suffering a shoulder dystocia is medical malpractice. In the case of Denise, the facility was negligent in a number of ways. The staff failed to perform an ultrasound prior to delivering Denise to determine her size, given the fact that Denise’s mother had previously delivered a large baby. Additionally, the staff failed to inform Denise’s mother of her increased risk for shoulder dystocia and failed to offer a Caesarean section as an option to reduce these risks. Finally, during delivery, the labor and delivery team failed to perform the proper disimpaction techniques, and the doctors applied excessive force causing Denise’s permanent nerve damage.

John and the rest of the birth injury lawyer team at Levin and Perconti, using their knowledge gained over many years practicing in the area, were able to settle Denise’s case for $1.3 million dollars. This money will help provide Denise the care and treatment necessary to live a more normal life.

April 2, 2011

New Research May Have Implications for Illinois Birth Injury Victims

A new study discussed in US News may have important implications for families dealing with traumatic birth injuries. All those who have suffered through complications during a pregnancy and the consequences stemming from them are aware of the lifelong challenges faced by many birth injury victims. In many instances the damage occurs in the young child’s brain—leading to developmental problems incapable of corrections.

However, new data suggest that newborn nerve cells may help heal the brain after traumatic injury. The research out of the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center and publish in the Journal of Neuroscience showed that new neurons were vital in mice’s ability to remember a maze following a brain injury.

The data may settle a debate about the role of newborn nerve cells in brains. The cells, made in the hippocampus and important in learning and memory, are beneficial in brain recovery. One neuroscientist explained the importance of these cells by noting that “It’s clear they are doing something, and that that something aids recovery.” The next challenge is for doctors to understand how the creation of new cells—neurogenesis—can be harnessed.

This could have clear consequence for local victims. In theory, the use of these newborn cells could help improve the mental function of those who have suffered from an Illinois brain injury. Blog readers are well apprised of the many Chicago birth injury lawsuits that arise in the area because of complications following medical errors. Many of those victims suffer problems without chance of improvement. All new information that may lead to better prognosis is welcome.

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February 1, 2011

Child Suffers from Cerebral Palsy and Seizures after Alleged Medical Malpractice

According to a lawsuit recently filed by Fiona and Stanley Brown, negligence on the part of Lakeland OB-GYN and Lakeland Regional Medical Center caused their child, Destiny, to be born suffering from cerebral palsy and seizures.

The birth injury lawsuit claims that while Fiona and Stanley were at Lakeland Regional, the fetal monitor strip indicated a decrease in fetal heart rate. At thirty-eight weeks pregnant, Fiona was told that she needed to undergo an emergency Cesarean section.

Lakeland Regional is accused of not providing timely care before Destiny’s birth, not treating the fetal distress quickly enough, not reporting changes in Fiona’s condition to the attending doctor quickly enough, and of delaying the C-section.

Continue reading "Child Suffers from Cerebral Palsy and Seizures after Alleged Medical Malpractice" »

June 29, 2010

Gestational Diabetes and Obesity Linked to Increased Birth Weight in Babies

Parents who suffer from a combination of gestational diabetes (GDM) and obesity have recently been linked to an increased chance of delivering children with macrosomia. Macrosomia, having a very high birth weight, can lead to various birth injuries if not recognized and approached correctly by a patient’s doctor.

A recent investigation reported by Dr. Metzger, M.D., of Northwestern University School of Medicine in Chicago found that obese women had a 13.6% increased chance of delivering a baby with macrosomia compared to women of a healthy weight. If an obese woman then develops gestational diabetes her risk of delivering a macrosomic child is 20.2% above that of a woman of normal weight.

Delivering a baby with a high birth weight takes much more finesse than delivering a baby of normal weight. If a doctor fails to recognize that a baby is macrosomic they may not be able to take the necessary precautions to minimize the risks posed by the delivery. According to Allahyar Jazayeri, M.D. in an article posted by emedicine, attempts at perinatal diagnosis of macrosomia have proven difficult and are often inaccurate so a doctor should always be prepared for the possible complications of macrosomia.

Continue reading "Gestational Diabetes and Obesity Linked to Increased Birth Weight in Babies" »

December 30, 2009

Ultrasound Detects Shoulder Dislocation 3 to 6 Months After Birth Injury

A new study in the January issue of Radiology found that an ultrasound can now be used to detect a posterior shoulder dislocation in infants 3 to 6 months old with a permanent brachial plexus birth injury (BPBI). A doctor from Finland performed ultrasonography to screen for posterior shoulder subluxation in 132 infants with brachial plexus at various times. Their research showed that posterior shoulder subluxation of the humeral head developed in one-third of the 27 patients with permanent BPBI that failed to heal in the first year. It was detected by ultrasound in 55 percent of patients at 3 months of age and in 89 percent of patients at 6 months of age. The ultrasound has proved to be a useful tool for diagnosis of a birth injury. It should be performed on the glenohumeral joint at age 3 and 6 months of age if the symptoms persist. To learn more about the ultrasound therapy, please click the link.

September 2, 2009

The Small Picture: Fighting Cerebral Palsy with Nanotechnology

A research team at Wayne State University is convinced that the big solution to preventing and treating cerebral palsy may come in a small package. The husband-and-wife team consisting of chemical engineering professor, Rangaramanujam Kannan and assistant pediatrics professor Dr. Sujatha Kannan, has received a patent for using tiny polymers to attack what it considers to be the root of the disorder: inflammation in the brain.

Cerebral palsy is a condition made up of a group of motor disorders caused by brain damage that often occurs after suffering from a birth injury or an infection that develops while in the womb. Prevention of the condition has thus far proven to be very difficult because it is generally diagnosed only after the damage has already occurred.

The research team has developed tiny tree-shaped polymers called dendrimers, which range from 5-10 nanometers long (over 700 times smaller than a human red blood cell), that are used to carry medicine directly to inflamed areas in the brain. The team believes that this method, in conjunction with the identification and diagnosis of the neuroinflammation in newborns, could prevent, or at least reduce, the development of cerebral palsy. Dr. Kannan is currently able to detect such inflammation in the brains of newborn rabbits and she believes that doctors might eventually be able to do the same in human newborns. Once detected, the dendrimers could then be used to target the inflammation, which in turn could prevent the condition from developing.

For more information on using this nanotechnology to treat cerebral palsy, click here.

August 13, 2009

New Hormone Shows Promise in Preventing Birth Injuries

A study conducted, which included more than 150 newborns with birth injuries, showed great promise in preventing birth injuries. This method involves injections of a hormone that stimulates red blood cell formation. The procedure can begin as late as two days after the birth injury. To read more about this study on preventing birth injuries, click here.

May 1, 2009

FDA Warns of Potentially Lethal Adverse Affects of Botox in Children with Cerebral Palsy

The FDA announced yesterday that it will require new warnings for Botox and all other Botulinum Toxin products. Botulinum toxin is a neurotoxic protein produced by the bacterium Clostriduam botulinum. It is the most toxic protein known to scientists and one of the most lethal substances to occur in nature. Although not approved for such use, it is often prescribed to children with cerebral palsy, who are injected with the drug in an effort to control limb spasticity that is associated with the disorder. The drug works by paralyzing the muscles, which restricts unwanted movement. After injection, however, the toxin can migrate to other areas of the body, including those muscles used to breathe, causing potentially deadly paralysis. The FDA stated that this adverse affect has occurred most frequently in children with cerebral palsy and that several children with the birth injury have died as a result of the treatment.

The new label requirement includes a black box warning, a type of warning that is reserved for drugs with significant risks of serious or life-threatening adverse affects.

For more information on the FDA’s Botox warning, click here.

April 24, 2009

New Illinois Law Will Allow Children with Cerebral Palsy and other Developmental Disorders to Get Treatment

Illinois birth injury victims may get access to treatment that was previously unavailable to them thanks to new legislation recently signed by Governor Pat Quinn. Children with cerebral palsy and other developmental disorders such as Down syndrome and autism will soon be able to get treatment thanks to a new law that requires insurance companies to pay for speech, physical and occupational therapies. Specifically, the law requires insurers to extend coverage to “habilitative treatments,” which are those intended to teach new skills and maximize functioning. The law takes effect January 1, 2010.

For more information on how this new law will help children with cerebral palsy, click here.

March 6, 2009

Cool New Therapy Reduces Brain Damage in Oxygen-Deprived Infants

Babies who are deprived of oxygen for any significant period of time during birth have a very high risk of suffering permanent brain damage. This risk of birth injury has shown to be reduced, however, by a new therapy that is pretty cool, literally. The therapy, called induced hypothermia, involves placing an infant on a cooling blanket within 6 hours of its birth for a period of 3 days, bringing its temperature down from the normal 98.6 degrees to about 92 degrees. Research shows that, while the therapy may not completely prevent brain damage, babies suffering from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), or birth hypoxia and asphyxia, that receive the treatment have a greater chance of survival and the extent of their brain damage from oxygen deprivation is reduced.

Read more about this new cooling therapy here.

February 25, 2009

Newborn Screening Now Required in All States

Just 4 years ago, only a third of all infants born in the United States were required to undergo screening tests to determine whether they had acquired any of a multitude of conditions. Now, all states and the District of Columbia have enacted rules or regulations requiring newborn screening for at least 21 disorders including genetic, metabolic, hormonal and functional disorders. The screening is important to detect the presence of such birth defects and birth injuries because many have no visible symptoms until after permanent damage has developed. Early detection allows for timely treatment, which can prevent permanent injuries such as brain damage and mental retardation from occurring. If you are interested in learning more about newborn screening and the disorders that it can detect, the March of Dimes is an excellent resource.

Read more about the newborn screening requirements here.

January 16, 2009

Hospital Settles with Chicago Suburb Family

A Chicago suburb hospital is forced to pay $6.5 million dollars for a child who suffered a brain injury under their treatment. The attending obstetrician and labor and delivery nurse “failed to respond to the baby’s low heart rate and reduced oxygen flow caused by the drug Pitocin” which resulted in the birth injury.

For the full story, click here.

December 18, 2008

Tumor found after baby’s birth shocks doctor

A doctor operated on a 3 day-old baby after an MRI showed a tumor after birth on the newborn’s brain. While the doctor removed the growth, he realized it contained a nearly perfect foot, the formation of another foot, a hand, and a thigh. The doctor said that this type of birth injury is extremely unique and unusual.

For the full article.

December 2, 2008

Twin undergoes revolutionary treatment for birth injury

A twin who experienced a brain birth injury is about to undergo an experimental treatment. The surgery uses her own umbilical cord blood. The birth injury victim is now four years old. While her twin sister hit all of her developmental milestones early, the 4 year-old birth injury victim did not learn to crawl until she was three.

For the full article.