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:
· 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.
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