Five Hidden Signs of Birth Injury That Medical Practitioners Can Miss


While there are a number of injuries that can occur to an infant during delivery, we have researched five that are difficult to detect immediately following delivery.

Nine months of healthy eating, doctor’s visits, education and careful choices. That is the journey that most families travel when bringing a new child into the world, and we do everything we can to make sure they are safe. But for some families, the delivery room can offer a host of hazards that can impeded the health and developmental wellness of their child due to negligence.
While there are a number of injuries that can occur to an infant during delivery, we have researched five that are difficult to detect immediately following delivery. It is important to note that many physiological problems are not detectable upon visual examination, which is why it is important for medical teams to do a thorough evaluation of the child immediately following birth, to avoid misdiagnosed problems later in life.
1. Choanal Atresia
When the nasal cavity is blocked, infants can develop a nasal obstruction that can lead to a number of health complications. While there are some common reasons for infants to develop nasal obstructions, including a hematoma, deviated septum, and allergies, Choanal Atresia is harder to detect. The condition is usually found when the infant experiences difficulty breast feeding (cyanosis) where breathing predominantly through the nose is required.
Treatment for the condition requires surgery, and may involve the placement of a nasal stent as the infant develops, or surgery to remove tissue where it obstructs air flow. It is an important birth defect that can go unnoticed, unless parents are informed of some of the warning signs.
2. Hydrocephalus
The condition which involves excess fluid in (or surrounding) the brain can be caused from genetic abnormalities or from trauma during delivery. Premature birth procedures that are often a result of an emergency medical condition or the infant or mother, is a leading cause of hydrocephalus. Other diseases such as meningitis, or injuries and hemorrhaging can contribute to the condition.
Detection at the time of delivery may be difficult if the condition has not increased the circumference of the head. Measuring of the infant is done to establish size norms, and a larger than normal skull circumference should be investigated for hydrocephalus. The most recent contributor to this condition is the Zika virus, and symptoms for the infant can include nausea, vomiting, irritability and low cast eyes (know as “sun setting) as well as frequent seizures.
3. Retinal Hemorrhage
There are many causes of retinal hemorrhaging during delivery, but the common factor is traumatic or forceful delivery. Damaging the eyes or placing pressure on the head is something that can happen during the course of normal childbirth in the canal, or due to implements and tools used to assist delivery, including forceps. If delivery is delayed, asphyxia and respiratory distress can contribute to retinal hemorrhaging, but follow up should occur to rule out post-delivery neurological damage.
4. Erb’s and Klumpke’s Palsy
Both Erb’s and Klumpke’s palsy occurs when the infant is born face first, or when the child is delivered with arms raised about its head, and hands emerging first through the birth canal, or feet first. The symptoms for the infant include loss of feeling and numbness from acute nerve damage, that can reduce feeling in the arms, wrists, hands or feet. Frequently with both conditions, the delivery is hampered by “shoulder dystocia”, where the infant becomes caught up on the pubic bone of the mother during labor.
While it can be difficult to detect immediately following birth, healthcare practitioners should look for unencumbered movement of the arms, neck, hands and feet to confirm the absence of nerve damage, post-delivery. Physicians should also check for evidence of miosis, which is a constricted pupil, and a sign that may indicate Horner’s Syndrome.
5. Spasmodic Torticollis
Unless a physician is closely documenting a difficult delivery, it can be hard to visually confirm the presence of spasmodic torticollis in post-delivery infants. There are many causes of the condition that stem from equipment use (vacuum and forceps), forceful pulling of the infant by a doctor to hasten delivery, breech birth or other abnormal birth positions, and spinal development abnormalities in utero.
The symptoms of spasmodic torticollis include:
If pain in movement is noticed, care practitioners should order MRI or CT scans to rule out any impinging of nerves or spinal misalignment. Stretching and therapeutics are required for infants, through developmental years to correct the issue, but left undiagnosed and untreated, the condition can be debilitating for adults.
According to Chicago birth injury lawyers, it is important for parents to be extremely observant of the delivery process, and the methods used by healthcare practitioners which may or may not have placed your child at risk, due to negligence.

Article last time updated on 15.02.2017.

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