Shoulder Dystocia and Lack of Oxygen to the Brain
Shoulder dystocia occurs when the baby’s head emerges during delivery, but one or both shoulders remains trapped behind the mother’s pubic bone, preventing completion of delivery of the baby. This may cause the baby to suffer from oxygen deprivation if the umbilical cord is compressed between the baby’s body and the mother’s pelvis, or if the baby’s neck is compressed at an angle that prevents blood flow. An interruption of the baby’s oxygen supply (hypoxia or asphyxia) during delivery can result in a permanent brain injury commonly diagnosed as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).
The chances of a baby having a hypoxic brain injury as a result of shoulder dystocia increase the longer the baby is stuck in the birth canal. Therefore, shoulder dystocia is always an obstetric emergency which must be very promptly recognized and treated. Treatment requires the attending medical staff to use one or more procedures, or obstetric maneuvers, to release the trapped shoulder and delivery the baby. Once the baby is delivered, careful monitoring is required to assess the baby’s initial neurologic condition, including a check of the baby’s color, muscle tone, cord blood gas level, and brain wave activity. Abnormal findings in the first hours and days of life, such as irregular muscle tone, seizures, trouble sucking, and/or severe acidosis (cord blood gas level with a pH value which is less than 7 (pH < 7) would all be indicators of an HIE brain injury.
Although there are other risks associated with shoulder dystocia, including brachial plexus injury (nerve damage to the shoulder, arm, or hand) or bone fracture (typically the collarbone or shoulder blade), a hypoxic brain injury is the most severe result of shoulder dystocia because it may cause permanent brain damage limiting a child’s growth and development for a lifetime.
If your child suffered a birth injury, contact The Yost Legal Group today at 1-800-YOST-LAW (800-403-7259). The attorneys at Yost Legal Group are experienced, caring professionals ready to investigate your claim with compassion and determination. Call us today to receive a free, confidential consultation about your possible case.
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