Vacuum Delivery Errors

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With childbirth, there are many factors that must be considered and a slew of potential issues that may arise. Unfortunately, sometimes deliveries do not go as planned and doctors require the use of medical equipment to help extract the baby from the birth canal. Vacuum extraction may be used when there are signs that the baby is experiencing fetal heart distress, or if there is a failure to progress in the second stage of labor. While vacuum extraction is one of the most widely used ways to assist in difficult deliveries, it can result in scalp and brain injury, or other related birth defects.

In a vacuum extraction, a cup attached to a vacuum pump is placed on the head of the baby. The cup can be made of either plastic or metal and can vary in rigidity or softness. Rigid cups are more likely to result in successful assisted deliveries, but are also more likely to cause injuries to the baby. A vacuum pump then creates the suction or vacuum seal in the cup needed to help pull the baby out of the birth canal. This method of extraction should not be tried for longer than 20 minutes.

Moderate to severe birth injuries and other complications can occur during a delivery where a vacuum extraction is used to assist the doctor in delivering the baby. Many of the factors that can cause these injuries can be avoided by medical personnel. Errors made by the medical staff during the delivery that can cause birth injuries include cup misapplication, excessive duration of vacuum application, sudden disengagement, pulling in the wrong axis, and rocking the head.

A number of birth injuries have a much higher rate of occurrence when a vacuum extraction is performed during the delivery. Scalp trauma, such as bruises and scrapes on the scalp, is one of the minor injuries that can occur when there is a mistake made during the delivery. Cephalohematoma can also occur and is a condition in which blood pools next to the baby's skull. This blood is normally reabsorbed within a period of two weeks to three months. As red blood cells are broken down increased production of bilirubin occurs, which increases the risk of jaundice. With jaundice, there is also a chance that an infant may develop cerebral palsy.

Other more serious conditions can occur from delivery error such as retinal bleeding, inter-cranial bleeding, inter-ventricular bleeding, and brachial plexus injury. Retinal bleeding is when blood pools behind the eye and can result in temporary or permanent loss or distortion of vision. When there is bleeding in the brain it is called inter-cranial bleeding and can cause long term brain damage and possibly death. Intra-ventricle bleeding is when there is inter-cranial bleeding in the ventricles, or fluid-filled spaces of the brain, and can also result in brain damage and death. Brachial plexus injury is nerve damage that is sustained during the delivery that may cause limp arms, lack of muscle control in the arm, hand, or wrist, or paralysis to the arm, hand, or fingers.

Subgaleal hemorrhage is a rare but dangerous condition where a large volume of blood from damaged blood vessels collects between the connective tissue covering the bones and the scalp. Swelling continues after birth and the condition often cannot be diagnosed until after the first several hours, or few days of life. It is frequently associated with cephalohematoma and intracranial bleeding and can go undetected and misdiagnosed. If it is not detected within a few days, anemia, metabolic acidosis, or an excess of acidity in the blood, and respiratory distress can develop causing death. Subgaleal hemorrhage can be caused by mistakes made during a vacuum extraction.

If there is a possibility that your baby sustained an injury during a vacuum extraction it is important that you contact a lawyer who specializes in birth injuries. An experienced lawyer will be able to establish if you have a solid case to receive compensation your child's medical expenses.


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