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Legal: Cord injury from intrauterine pressure catheter alleged

Death of infant due to damaged umbilical cord.

A Kentucky woman was pregnant in 2003 with her second child and was receiving prenatal care from her obstetrician. She had two ultrasounds during the pregnancy that indicated marginal placenta previa. At term, the patient came to the hospital complaining of vaginal leakage and she was admitted with dysfunctional labor; oxytocin was started to augment labor. An intrauterine pressure catheter (IUPC) was placed and blood was noted in the catheter. A cesarean section was ordered and the infant was born about 45 minutes later. She had Apgars of 0 and 0, and although she was resuscitated, the infant died 23 days later.

The woman sued those involved with her care and claimed that the death was due to damage to the umbilical cord during the placement of the catheter. She claimed the finding of a placenta previa on U/S made the pregnancy high risk and that a C/S should have been planned, which would have avoided the need for the IUPC and thus prevented any injury to the cord. She also alleged that once the umbilical cord was injured, the defendants failed to act promptly to deliver the infant.

The defendants argued that the placenta previa was marginal on the early U/S and they believed it would resolve without complications. They also claimed that the injury to the umbilical cord was due to some aberrant pathology and that delivery was promptly done once blood was returned in the catheter.

Department editor DAWN COLLINS, JD, is an attorney specializing in medical malpractice in Long Beach, CA. She welcomes feedback on this column via e-mail to DawnCF@aol.com