Pediatric malpractice can cause severe damage at a very early age. The child will have to cope with the resulting complications for the rest of his or her life. For this reason, compensation awarded in pediatric malpractice cases is substantially higher than any other form of medical malpractice.
Pediatric Errors in Early Childhood
Some pediatric mistakes occur during surgical procedures, but most pediatric malpractice cases stem from misdiagnosis. This is partially due to the difficulty a child has of adequately expressing all symptoms. It is the pediatrician’s responsibility to make the child feel comfortable and safe. The pediatrician should ask the child a long list of almost repetitive questions to fully understand what the child is experiencing and should take extra care to be gentle during examination.
While diagnostic errors can occur for any medical ailment, there are certain cases that are exceptionally difficult to identify in young children. These cases tend to have very generic symptoms and may require extensive testing to properly diagnose.
Misdiagnosis of Inflammatory Diseases
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that protect the spinal cord and brain. It can be caused by an infection with viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms. In rare occasions, meningitis has also been a side effect of certain drugs. Meningitis is a medical emergency, due to the proximity of the inflammation to the brain and spinal cord.
Symptoms may include:
- Stiff neck
- Intolerance to light or loud noises
Nonspecific symptoms may be the only indicators of meningitis in small children, making it exceptionally difficult to diagnose. Headaches, irritability, and drowsiness could be signs of many different ailments. A pediatrician should test the child with a lumbar puncture if meningitis is even a remote possibility.
Pneumonia is an inflammatory disease of the lung. It mainly affects the lung’s microscopic air sacs, or alveoli. When very basic symptoms are present in children, pneumonia can easily be misdiagnosed as bronchitis, COPD, or tuberculosis.
Symptoms can involve:
- Cough, producing mucus
- Mucus may be rust-colored, green, or tinged with blood
- Shaking or chills
- Fast, shallow breaths
- Lethargy or weakness
- Chest pain when coughing or inhaling
- Fast heartbeat
- Nausea and/or vomiting
A pediatrician will need to conduct a physical exam of the child. Chest X-rays are common in the diagnostic process. Questions about medical history are also important, and further testing may reveal more serious conditions such as lung cancer, heart failure, or acute bronchitis.
Appendicitis is characterized by appendix inflammation. Acute cases cause severe pain, while the non-acute form is simply known as “rumbling appendicitis.” Many cases of acute appendicitis require removal of the appendix and are classified as medical emergencies. If left untreated, the appendix may burst. This leads to peritonitis and shock, making the mortality rate of appendicitis very high.
Symptoms can include:
- Dull pain in upper abdomen or near navel
- Extreme pain in the lower right abdomen
- Abdominal swelling
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Painful urination
- Problems with bowel movements
- Severe cramps
Many vague appendicitis symptoms are very similar to other medical issues such as Crohn’s disease, gastritis, intestinal infection, gallbladder problems, and bladder or urinary tract infection. Diagnosis typically involves abdominal or rectal exams, urine tests, blood tests, ultrasound scans, and CT scans.
Childbirth and Infant Injury
Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) is also known as congenital dysplasia of the hip, or hip dysplasia. It occurs when there is a misalignment or deformation of the hip joint or when the connective tissues are too loose, allowing the femur to wobble. Dislocation is the worst form of DDH. It can result from abnormal position of the fetus while still in the womb and during delivery. It is important for an obstetrician to identify the issue in an attempt to minimize any adverse effects for the child.
Congenital brain damage is a type of brain injury that occurs during childbirth. It can cause congenital hydrocephalus (CSF), epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and a slew of other medical issues. While symptoms vary according to specific results of the congenital brain damage, there are signs of heightened risk for infant brain injury.
Types of Birth Injuries:
- Birth Trauma
- Bleeding of the Brain
- Brachial Plexus
- Brain Injuries From Birth
- Brain Ischemia
- Broken Bones
- Cerebral Palsy
- Cervical Dystonia
- Chorioamnionitis Misdiagnosis
- Cystic Fibrosis Misdiagnosis
- Erb’s Palsy
- Fetal Lacerations
- Forceps Delivery
- Group B Strep Infection Misdiagnosis
- Hepatitis B Virus Misdiagnosis
- Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
- Klumpke’s Palsy
- Perinatal Asphyxia
- Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)
- Rubella Misdiagnosis
- Syphilis Misdiagnosis
- Toxoplasmosis Misdiagnosis
- Urinary Tract Infection Misdiagnosis
- Wrongful Birth
Infant brain injury risks include:
- Bleeding in the fetus before birth
- Infections in the mother, such as rubella, cytomegalovirus syphilis or toxoplasmosis
- Other birth defects, such as spina bifida or severe jaundice
- Incorrect use of forceps during delivery
- Unsafe position of fetus in womb or during delivery
- Incompatible blood Rh between mother and infant
- Oxygen deprivation of the brain
- Head trauma
The obstetrician should be aware of any incidences that may heighten risk for congenital brain damage. Serious damage will result in unnecessary suffering for the rest of the child’s life. If a doctor fails to identify or act upon certain risks, medical malpractice may occur.
A Martinot, et al. “Epidemiology Of Malpractice Lawsuits In Paediatrics.” Acta Paediatrica (Oslo, Normay: 1992) 97.11 (2008): 1486-1491. MEDLINE with Full Text. Web. 24 May 2012.
Bauchner, Howard. “Pediatric Medical Malpractice.” Journal Watch Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 18 Feb. 2009. Academic OneFile. Web. 23 May 2012.
Castaneda, Pablo. “Pediatric hip dysplasia and evaluation with ultrasound.” Pediatric Health 3.5 (2009): 465+. Academic OneFile. Web. 24 May 2012.
Grupp-Phelan, Jacqueline, Sally Reynolds and Laura L. Lingl. “Professional liability of residents in a children’s hospital.” Archives of Pediatrics & AdolescentMedicine 150.1 (1996): 87+. Nursing Resource Center. Gale. 24 May 2012.
Guzzetta, Andrea. “Plasticity Of The Visual System After Congenital Brain Damage: A Few Weeks Can Matter.” Developmental Medicine And Child Neurology 52.8 (2010): 699. MEDLINE with Full Text. Web. 24 May 2012.
Ivey, Jean, et al. “He walks funny.” Pediatric Nursing Nov.-Dec. 2008: 493+. Academic OneFile. Web. 24 May 2012.
Jancin, Bruce. “Pediatric malpractice suits win biggest payouts.” Pediatric News Apr. 2012: 23. Academic OneFile. Web. 15 May 2012.
“New Central Nervous System Findings from Epilepsy Center Published.” Pain & Central Nervous System Week 29 Aug. 2011: 106. Academic OneFile. Web. 24 May 2012.
Pediatric Malpractice Categories and Terms
The Apgar score is a set of criteria used to evaluate the physical condition of a baby immediately after delivery.
Autism is a disorder that affects brain development. This affects the mental, intellectual, as well as emotional development and health of a child.
Brachial Plexus Injury
A brachial plexus injury typically arises from complications during birth. The brachial plexus are a group of nerves located near the neck and shoulder.
Erb’s Palsy, also known as Erb-Duchenne palsy, is the lack of arm mobility as a result of brachial plexus injury.
Birth Trauma vs Birth Defects
Birth injuries and trauma are the direct result of an adverse effect during labor and delivery and typically impair the infant’s body function or structure.
Infant seizures may indicate that there are other health problems. An infant seizure occurs as a result of brain cells “over-firing” or being excessively active.
Kernicterus is a rare but serious disease that causes brain damage in infants due to increased levels of bilirubin within their blood system.
Klumpke’s Palsy is a type of paralysis that affects the muscles of the hand and the forearm.
Maternal C-Section Injury
A cesarean section is also known as a C-section. It is the alternative for mothers having difficulty with vaginal birth.
When hospital error or negligence results in injury or death to a newborn child, parents must exercise all their rights in order to be compensated for medical malpractice.
Pediatric Cardiology Malpractice
Pediatric cardiology is an extremely unique condition to treat, which results in unusual conditions leading to errors.
Any healthcare professional who assists in the medical care of children, must have a required amount of medical skill and are required to use their skills the same way for all patients.
Pediatric Therapist Malpractice
A breach in the standard of care duty must be proven when suing a pediatric therapist for malpractice.
Stillbirths are a complex medical issue and health care professionals cannot always determine the exact cause of one.
Vaginal Birth Risk
After a previous delivery via caesarean section, expectant mothers have the option of attempting a vaginal birth for their next delivery.
Pediatric Birth Injury Malpractice Lawyer
Congenital Heart Defect
Congenital heart defects are defects already present when the baby is born. These types of birth defects are often referred to as congenital anomalies or congenital abnormalities.
Causes of Child Birth Injury
Although hospitals and physicians do all that they can to ensure that a child’s birth will be healthy and safe, at times, poor communication or an error in judgment causes harm to a newborn baby.
Birth Injury Hospital Liability
Approximately 5 out of every 1,000 infants born in the United States each year suffer from injuries during childbirth.
A breech birth, or breech presentation, occurs when a fetus descends through the birth canal with the feet or buttocks first.
Fetal C-Section Injury
The infant’s safety is typically the first concern of expecting parents. A mother may not mind her increased risk of C-section injury, as long as she knows her child will be healthy.
Fetal distress is an umbrella term used to describe warning signs that indicate a fetus may be experiencing health problems.
Facial paralysis cases are often complex and call for a skilled attorney to handle them appropriately.
Newborns have delicate systems and bone structures that can be harmed if proper care is not observed.
Pitocin Side Effects
Pitocin is used to induce labor for various reasons. A maternal infection or illness may require labor to be started early in an effort to minimize harm to the fetus.
Pregnancy Induced Hypertension
Pregnancy induced hypertension occurs in approximately 1 out of every 14 pregnancies. Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood pushing on the walls of blood vessels.
Premature Birth Injury
Infants who are born prematurely are at an increased risk of complications during the birthing process.
Preventing Birth Injuries
Since there are certain factors which can predispose women to a high risk birth, physicians should take a complete medical history of the expectant mother.
The purpose of the umbilical cord is to supply the baby with oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood from the placenta, as well as carry deoxygenated, nutrient-depleted blood out.
A vaginal birth risk, uterine rupture refers to incomplete or complete tearing of the uterus.
The sensitive scalp area increases the risk of injury to the infant if forceps or vacuum extraction is used to assist during the delivery.
Pediatric Cerebral Palsy Malpractice Lawyer
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Ataxic cerebral palsy is a form of non-spastic cerebral palsy. Ataxic cerebral palsy is different from dyskinetic cerebral palsy.
Cerebral Palsy Symptoms
The diagnosis of cerebral palsy is not always apparent in very young infants but rather it is detected when an affected child misses key developmental milestones.
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy
Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is occasionally referred to as athetoid cerebral palsy. One form of dyskinetic cerebral palsy may display as twisting, writhing, or repetitive movement
Gross Motor Function Classification System
The Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) is used to classify cerebral palsy in children from birth to the age of 18.
Mild Cerebral Palsy
Motor skills, the ability to move and muscle tone are all affected by cerebral palsy. The disorder can lead to more serious lifelong problems, but symptoms are not progressive.
Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy
Any damage occurring to an infant prior to, during, or following delivery may be considered a birth injury.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy
Spastic cerebral palsy is the result of brain damage that causes muscle stiffness, making it difficult to move.
Malpractice Leading To Autism
Although the causes of Autism are largely unknown, there is a chance that it can develop during pregnancy due to the negligence of a medical professional.
Pediatric Brain Injury Malpractice Lawyer
An intracranial hemorrhage, or bleeding in the brain of an infant, is a birth injury that results as a blood vessel within the brain suddenly bursts.
When a baby suffers from child birth malpractice during a delivery, then he or she may not display effects until years later.
Pediatric Early Childhood Malpractice Lawyer
Early Childhood Injury
It is possible for pediatric injuries to occur while a woman is pregnant, during labor and delivery, and after birth.
Gigantism is a condition that results when a growth hormone secreting pituitary adenoma is present prior to the fusion of the bone growth plates.
Shaken Baby Syndrome
Shaken baby syndrome, or SBS, is the leading cause of infant brain injury and infant abuse death in the country.
Pediatric Pregnancy Malpractice Lawyer
Cervical cerclage, also called a cervical stitch, is implemented to treat cervical incompetence, or weakness.
A C-section is a surgical procedure where a baby is delivered through a surgical incision in the mother’s abdomen.
Cholestasis of Pregnancy
Cholestasis of pregnancy is a condition during which bile cannot flow from a pregnant woman’s liver to her duodenum, or the first section of the small intestine.
An ectopic pregnancy, or eccysis, occurs when a fertilized egg implants itself and grows outside the uterus as opposed to inside.
HELLP syndrome is characterized by a group of symptoms occurring in pregnant women. HELLP syndrome typically occurs during the third trimester of a pregnancy.
Intrauterine Growth Restriction
Intrauterine growth restriction, also known as fetal growth restriction, is a term used to describe poor growth of a fetus inside the mother’s womb
A molar pregnancy, also known as gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) or Hydatidiform mole, is the abnormal growth of tissue in the uterus.
Oligohydramnios is a pregnancy condition during which there is a deficiency in amniotic fluid. Oligohydramnios is the opposite of polyhydraminos, during which there is excess amniotic fluid.
Polyhydramnios is a pregnancy condition during which there is excess amniotic fluid. Polyhydramnios is the opposite of oligohydraminos, during which there is an amniotic fluid deficiency.
The term “duty of care” refers to a physician’s legal and moral obligation to care for a patient. By accepting a patient, a physician enters into a legal agreement.
Pediatric Immunization Malpractice Lawyer
Hepatitis B Vaccine
Typically, GBS is triggered by an infection and the rate of incidence following the first dose of plasma-derived hepatitis B vaccines is considerably rare.
Immunizations or the process of being immunized is when an individual’s immune system is prepared against an agent, illness, condition, or disease.
The vaccine for measles was first made available in 1963 and has been improved since with reported cases in the United States dropping to less than 200 a year since 1997.
Poliomyelitis prevention, also referred to as OPV, or a polio vaccine are used throughout the world to combat poliomyelitis.
Additional Frequently Asked Questions
- How Do You Determine If Someone Is the Victim of Medical Negligence?
- Can I Find Out If A Doctor Has Been Sued For Malpractice Before?
- What Does “Informed Consent” in Relation to Medical Malpractice Mean?
- What Are the Pre-Filing Requirements in a Florida Medical Malpractice Case?
- Are There Limitations on Damages In Florida Medical Malpractice Cases?