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New Technique May Save Lives of Infants with Diaphragm Birth Defect

Medical News Today shared interesting information this week on a new in-utero procedure that has been found to improve the survival rates for infants with a unique diaphragm birth defect. The injury in question, congenital diaphragmatic hernia, is a birth defect caused essentially by the development of a hole in the infant’s diaphragm. This hole leads to a pulmonary hypoplasia, which is an incomplete development of the lungs. Frequent blog readers will be aware that improper lung development leads to a wide range of problems for children. For example, if lungs are not fully developed at birth, the child’s brain may not receive enough oxygen, causing permanent brain damage. Of course, in many cases the permanent malformation of the lungs proves fatal and the child does not survive.

However, a new study published in the Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology journal suggests that a procedure may be used to improve survival rates in these situations, particularly in the most severe cases of congenial diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). The study in question comes from Brazil, where researchers carried out randomized trials on forty one patients. All of the patients were women whose fetuses had developed CDH. The group was split in two, with one receiving the procedure, known as fetal tracheal occlusion (FETO), and the other receiving no intervention. The group receiving the treatment had it performed at some point between weeks 26 and 30 of their pregnancy.

Overall those in the research group gave birth on average a week earlier than the control group. Researchers found that of the group that had received the procedure, half of the infants survived (10 out of 20). On the other hand, only one of the twenty one children in control group survived. Therefore, researchers roughly concluded that while no treatment leads to a five percent chance of survival for these infants, providing the FETO treatment raises survival rates to about fifty percent. Experts believe that the procedure works by enhancing pulmonary growth. They suggested that this information is sufficient to lead professionals to consider FETO treatment to be standard care for the most severe forms of CDH.

Our Illinois birth injury lawyers know that these developments may have implications for the quality of care that patients should expect when it comes to treatment for CDH. Of course, it is not at all correct for patients to now assume that if their infant does not survive because of the condition than it is due to improper medical care. On the contrary, even with the FETO treatment, survival from the birth injury is only at fifty percent. Instead, determining whether or not a birth injury lawsuit should be filed following these infant deaths depends on a broader assessment of the general level of care that was provided by a medical team. Looking only at outcomes is not relevant to the base measure of whether negligence actually occurred. The unsatisfactory outcome generally only relates the damages assessment of any medical malpractice case. But damages are insufficient without a breach of care being proven.

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