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Can You File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for Kernicterus?

Our Washington, D.C. Kernicterus Birth Injury Lawyers at the Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates Will Help

Over half of all babies born in the United States have some degree of jaundice, which is a condition that occurs when there is a buildup of a chemical called bilirubin in the baby’s bloodstream. Common symptoms of jaundice include a yellowish tint to the skin and the whites of the baby’s eyes. In most cases, jaundice clears up on its own or with non-invasive treatment options like phototherapy. However, if the jaundice is not correctly diagnosed or left untreated, kernicterus can develop, which is a rare but serious condition that can cause a range of health complications, including irreversible brain damage. If you have reason to believe that your baby developed kernicterus as a result of medical negligence, it is highly recommended that you contact an experienced kernicterus birth injury lawyer as soon as possible.

What Is Kernicterus?

Kernicterus is a serious, potentially fatal disease that occurs when there are toxic levels of bilirubin in an infant’s bloodstream. This condition only occurs if the bilirubin toxicity is not correctly diagnosed and treated. While jaundice is common and generally harmless if it is monitored and treated, the baby can suffer a range of serious health complications if jaundice develops into kernicterus. The high levels of bilirubin cause damage to the baby’s brain or central nervous system. The only thing that can make this birth injury more devastating is that it is preventable with the proper monitoring and testing.

What Are the Symptoms of Kernicterus?

Kernicterus is a severe form of jaundice, so initial symptoms include skin, eyes, and tissue yellowing. The following are additional symptoms that your baby may be suffering from acute bilirubin toxicity or kernicterus:

  • Irritability
  • Abnormal suck response
  • Lethargic or difficulty arousing from sleep
  • Lack of startle reflex
  • Decreased muscle tone
  • Episodes of increased muscle tone causing an arching of the back
  • Not feeding well
  • Lack of wet diapers
  • Seizures
  • Fever of 100 degrees or higher

What Are the Health Complications Associated With Kernicterus?

While kernicterus is entirely preventable, there is no cure. Phototherapy, or a Biliblanket, can help break down and remove bilirubin from the baby’s system. In extreme cases, a doctor may perform a blood or plasma transfusion, which replaces the contaminated blood with blood from a donor. If the condition is not diagnosed and the excess bilirubin crosses the blood-brain barrier, this can cause a range of neurological issues, including the following:

  • Cognitive impairments: These will become apparent as the baby grows and develops. For example, kernicterus can cause difficulty remembering, concentrating, learning new things, and making simple everyday decisions. A baby’s cognitive impairments can range from mild to severe.
  • Severe neurological damage: These may include developmental disabilities, hearing impairments, and learning disabilities that require ongoing medical care.
  • Cerebral palsy or other permanent brain damage: Toxic levels of bilirubin can cause motor-related consequences, including lack of coordination and severe movement disorders like dyskinetic cerebral palsy.

What Are the Most Common Medical Errors That Can Lead to Kernicterus?

While kernicterus is a severe disease that can have devastating consequences, it is entirely preventable. Unfortunately, when healthcare professionals do not take the necessary steps to treat cases of jaundice before they progress and become much more severe, babies can develop kernicterus. The following are examples of some of the most common mistakes made by healthcare professionals:

  • Failure to treat the child immediately following initial test results showing elevated bilirubin. A delayed diagnosis can result in serious, often permanent neurological issues.
  • Failure to proceed with phototherapy or determine the benefits of a blood transfusion. If testing is necessary to prepare the infant for a transfusion, this should be done under phototherapy lights.
  • Failure to thoroughly examine the infant and identify common signs of kernicterus. Some of these symptoms can be subtle, but a qualified doctor should notice them.
  • Failure to thoroughly review and appreciate the significance of the test results, including total serum bilirubin based on the infant’s age. Doctors must interpret these test results accurately and determine whether there is cause for concern.

How Do I File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for a Kernicterus Birth Injury?

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), kernicterus is considered a medical error so egregious that it is in the same category as wrong-site surgeries or medication errors. If your baby has developed kernicterus, and you believe that your doctor failed to take the necessary steps to monitor, diagnose, and treat your baby’s bilirubin before it progressed to kernicterus, it is highly recommended that you contact an experienced kernicterus birth injury lawyer at your earliest convenience. A skilled birth injury lawyer will thoroughly examine the details of your case, determine whether negligence was a factor, and recover the damages to which you are entitled.

What Damages am I Entitled to in a Kernicterus Birth Injury Claim?

No amount of money can turn back the clock and prevent the course of events that caused your child to suffer from kernicterus. However, a successful medical malpractice lawsuit will help you recover damages, such as:

  • All medical expenses associated with the injury
  • Lost wages
  • Your child’s diminished earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Your child’s reduced quality of life
  • Emotional distress

Our Washington, D.C. Kernicterus Birth Injury Lawyers at the Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates Will Help

If your baby is suffering from kernicterus, a serious yet preventable disease, do not hesitate to contact our Washington, D.C. kernicterus birth injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates. We understand how devastating a diagnosis like this can be. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 202-223-4488 or contact us online. Located in Washington, D.C., we serve clients in the surrounding areas, including Northern Virginia and Maryland.

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