Vacuum Extraction: Possible Risks to the Baby
During difficult deliveries, a doctor may choose to use birth-assisting tools, which have the potential to be beneficial to both mother and child, but may also result in medical injuries if used improperly. One such birth-assistance tool is a vacuum extractor. A doctor may use such a tool during lengthy and difficult labors by applying a soft or rigid cup to the infant’s head, which helps pull the infant out by creating suction. It is typically used as an alternative to cesarean delivery or to prevent distress to the infant. Although the vacuum extractor is a commonly used tool, the FDA warns that the use of it may present unnecessary risks to the health of the baby. Such risks fall within a wide range from minor to serious, even fatal, injuries.
Since this tool is applied to the baby’s head, its use may result in several types of head injuries, including brain hemorrhages, cerebral palsy, skull fractures, seizures, and retinal hemorrhages. In some cases where these conditions are left either undetected or untreated, death may occur. Other injuries throughout the body that may also result from improper use of a vacuum extraction tool are arm weakness or even paralysis. These injuries, however, are largely preventable and typically occur when used in inappropriate circumstances. For example, if the vacuum extraction tool is applied to an infant whose head is too far up the birth canal, or if the infant requires repositioning, injury may occur. This tool may also cause injuries if the infant is older than 34 weeks, if the mother is not fully dilated, or if the infant’s head is too large for the mother’s pelvis. If detected early, many of these injuries can be treated, though full recovery is dependent upon the severity of the infant’s injuries.
Proper use of this tool and an operator’s ability to assess whether or not it is appropriate to use on a patient are essential in avoiding injury to an infant. Even if a patient is an ideal candidate for its use, applying the vacuum cup incorrectly, or selecting the wrong cup size, may still cause injury to an infant. Forceps may be used as an alternative to the vacuum extraction tool, which poses less of a risk to the infant. However, this tool presents more risks to the mother.
At Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, we are dedicated to fighting for the rights of children and families when hospital staff endanger the well-being of your child. Children suffering from Erb’s palsy, cerebral palsy, spinal cord trauma, and other neurological injuries that occur as a result of negligent and improper care are some of the many cases we handle.
To speak with an attorney at our firm, call: (410) 983-6266