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Medical negligence » Neo natural conditions


Thousands of babies are born every year in the UK. Many are entirely healthy and leave the hospital quite quickly without need to return because of illness. However, this is not the case for all very young children.

Some may be born prematurely, whilst others display symptoms of ill-health but both must be monitored.

Monitoring of newborn babies

It is extremely important that newborn babies are closely observed during their first few hours and days of life and that they undergo a series of checks and tests. These checks will be carried out between 4 and 48 hours after birth and aim to identify any symptoms of medical conditions.

Some of the conditions that are checked for are a cleft palate, heart murmur, hip dysplasia and club foot, although there are many other general health tests carried out as well. It is important that the paediatrician, midwife or GP carries out these checks thoroughly so that any potential conditions can be treated as early as possible.

If any symptoms are missed and personal injury occurs, this may well amount to medical negligence.

Neo-natal conditions

The term neo-natal refers to a babys first 28 days after birth. During this time, it is usually possible for a medical professional to detect unusual symptoms that could point towards a number of potentially damaging illnesses.

These illnesses include:

  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Kernicterus

Hypoglycaemia

Hypoglycaemia is the medical term for low levels of glucose in the blood. It is most likely to occur in babies that are premature or low weight, those who suffered asphyxia during birth and those born to mothers with diabetes.

Symptoms of hypoglycaemia are most likely to become apparent within the first 24 hours and at risk babies, such as those named above, should be observed regularly. If symptoms are not picked up by medical staff and the child does not receive the appropriate treatment, permanent brain damage can occur.

There have been numerous medical negligence claims made against doctors and other hospital staff whose failure to diagnose hypoglycaemia resulted in the baby suffering serious brain injury.

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a condition also known as clicky hips. It means that the hip joint is not properly formed and, if left untreated, can cause pain and arthritis in later life.

It is usually identified during the post-natal checkup when the paediatrician or other medical professional spreads the thighs and a clunk sound is heard. However, it may not be identified until the baby is older as the condition is not always present at birth, instead developing over time.

Treatment for hip dysplasia in a very young infant does not usually involve surgery. A device called a Pavlik harness, which allows the hip joint to form properly, can correct the problem in up to 90% of children treated in the first few weeks of life.

The longer the condition is left, however, the more difficult the condition is to treat. In children over six months, an operation under general anaesthetic is usually required, followed by a hip cast.

In older children of around one year, a more invasive medical procedure needs to be carried out. However, this is not always successful and a hip reconstruction may be needed. Generally speaking, children who are diagnosed with hip dysplasia at an older age will have a less favourable outcome than those diagnosed at birth.

Most medical negligence claims for hip dysplasia are made against medical staff whose failure to diagnose the condition early resulted in a long, complicated and not necessarily satisfactory outcome for the child.

Kernicterus

Jaundice is a condition suffered by over half of newborn babies and is characterised by yellowing of the eye whites and skin. It usually resolves itself a few days or weeks after birth without need for treatment.

However, there is a serious complication of jaundice called kernicterus. This is caused by jaundice -related toxins acting on the brain, which can result in cerebral palsy, hearing or sight difficulties, and dental problems.

If identified early, it is totally preventable. It can be treated by simply exposing the baby to blue light that helps to break down the toxins in its body. However, because jaundice is so common, the symptoms of kernicterus are sometimes missed, resulting in permanent injury.

There are only a few children who suffer from kernicterus each year, although this number is thought to be rising. A medical negligence claim against staff who failed to diagnose or react to this condition is likely to be successful.

If you have a child with any of these conditions or any other, Making Contact is a web-based service that lets you contact other families living with disability. To find out more, please go to http://www.makingcontact.org.

Claiming medical negligence compensation

If you or a close family member have experienced medical negligence in relation to neo-natal care, you may wish to find out about the legal action that can be taken against those who caused the personal injury.

We have helped many people who have been the subject of medical negligence to claim compensation against those who were entrusted with their care. We can assist you in claiming for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity (changes in day to day living) you have experienced, as well as reclaiming any financial losses your injury has incurred.

We offer an approachable, friendly service that aids many in getting the medical negligence compensation to which they are entitled by law. Our personal injury solicitors are experts in the field of clinical error and medical negligence and have been successful in helping people get compensation.

If you would like to speak to us about an incident of medical negligence, please call us on 01582 437070 to see how we provide free legal advice about making a medical negligence claim.