Heart Defects in Newborns: When is Medical Malpractice to Blame?

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Newborn baby and his father's hand - care and safety concept

Newborn baby and his father’s hand – care and safety concept

Every year, approximately 35,000 babies are born with a heart defect. Congenital heart problems affect up to 8 out of every 1,000 births, and can range in severity from a minor complication to a life-threatening condition which requires surgical correction.

These congenital conditions can be caused by a genetic disorder, by medication taken by the mother, or may have no known cause. Whatever the reason, the key to effectively treating a heart condition before it becomes a serious problem is to catch it early. When an infant is diagnosed with a heart condition in utero, it allows doctors to effectively prepare for treatment after birth.

Diagnosing Heart Conditions In Utero

The most common way for a fetus to be diagnosed with a cardiac defect is through a sonogram. Between the 16th and 20th week of pregnancy, an obstetrician will order a screening sonogram which will check the chambers of the fetus’ heart for defects. If anything looks abnormal, a more specialized test called a fetal echocardiogram can be ordered, which will give the doctor a better look at any potential problems.

In addition to the sonogram, doctors should know to look for the presence of a heart murmur, which can indicate a structural defect. Even when the sonogram shows nothing abnormal, studies have reported that between 31% and 86% of infants born with a heart murmur have some type of cardiac defect.

Delayed Diagnosis Can Cause Injury

Early detection is crucial for infants with heart defects. Depending on the severity of the defect, the infant may need to be taken in for surgery shortly after birth. Alternatively, the defect may need to be corrected a few years after birth.

If a heart condition is not detected while the baby is in the womb, the infant’s parents may not know that their child needs surgery until after a problem develops later in life. At this point, serious cardiac damage could occur which may have been prevented with an earlier surgery.

If proper prenatal testing was not done, or if the tests were not read or interpreted properly, medical malpractice could have occurred. When a doctor or other medical professional negligently delays an infant’s diagnosis or treatment, the baby and his or her parents may have reason to file a lawsuit.

If you believe your child may have been the victim of malpractice, speak with a medical malpractice or personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., is both a doctor and a lawyer, and he and his team of dedicated legal and medical professionals will use their expertise to help you get justice after an injury caused by medical negligence. If you believe your child’s heart defect was missed by your obstetrician, Dr. Kramer can help you determine if you have a case for medical malpractice.

For a free consultation, call the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. today at (310) 289-2600 or use our online contact form to have your case reviewed for free.

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