Legal: Would earlier C/S have prevented brain damage?

January 1, 2009

Woman claims an earlier C/S would have resulted in earlier delivery and no brain damage.

A North Carolina woman presented to the hospital at 33 weeks' gestation in 1990, with complaints of vaginal bleeding, possible rupture of membranes, and abdominal pain. Her history included smoking and high blood pressure. After admission she had additional vaginal bleeding and increasing pain and discomfort. A C/S was done and a 50% to 60% placental abruption was found. The infant needed resuscitation and had severe metabolic acidosis; later studies revealed damage to the white matter of the brain, resulting in mental retardation and hearing loss.

The woman sued those involved with the delivery and claimed they were negligent in not performing a C/S immediately after her arrival.

The defense contended that there were no ominous signs of distress on the FHR strip and the situation required balancing the risks of prematurity against the risks of a potential placental abruption. A defense verdict was returned.