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What Is a Neonatal Stroke?

Our Washington, D.C. Birth Injury Lawyers at the Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates Represent Clients Whose Child Suffered a Neonatal Stroke

It is very common for expectant parents to have concerns about their baby’s health from the time they find out about the pregnancy to the moment that their baby enters the world. While most babies are born without any health issues, complications can arise that can cause serious, often life-threatening health complications. For example, if the blood flow to the baby’s brain is blocked or interrupted during the first 28 days after birth, the baby could suffer a neonatal stroke, which can have devastating consequences, including permanent cognitive impairments. The only thing that can make this injury more tragic and heartbreaking is if medical negligence is involved and the injury could have been prevented. An experienced birth injury lawyer will review the details of your case, determine whether negligence was a factor, and negotiate the best possible settlement outcome.

What Causes a Neonatal Stroke?

A neonatal stroke occurs when the blood flow to an infant’s brain is interrupted or reduced, which prevents the brain from getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function correctly. Several factors can cause a neonatal stroke, including a blood clot or structural defect that prevents the flow of blood to the brain or spinal cord. Hypoxia is another common cause, which occurs when the baby is deprived of oxygen. If the mother has a history of autoimmune disorders, coagulation disorders, diabetes, congenital heart disease, or other serious health conditions, this can increase the risk of a neonatal stroke.

The two most common types of neonatal stroke include the following:

  • Arterial ischemic stroke: This occurs when a blood clot or structural abnormality obstructs the flow of blood to the brain.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke: This occurs when the brain is bleeding.

What Are the Symptoms of a Neonatal Stroke?

One of the reasons why neonatal strokes are so dangerous is that the infant may not show any apparent signs that they are experiencing a health complication. Several months may go by before anyone suspects that there is something wrong. One of the most common symptoms of a neonatal stroke is a seizure; however, seizure symptoms usually include things like twitching of the face, arm, or leg, sucking, chewing, staring, or movements that resemble pedaling, so they are not always detected right away. As the baby continues to develop, they may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty eating or a refusal to feed.
  • Extreme lethargy, including sleeping for more than 18 hours a day.
  • Hemiparesis or signs of weakness or partial paralysis on one side of the body.
  • Apnea which involves a stop in breathing or multiple stops in breathing.
  • Preference for using one hand over the other.
  • Developmental delays, including rolling over or crawling later than the average age.

How Is a Neonatal Stroke Diagnosed and Treated?

In some cases, if there is a concern that the baby may have a birth defect, a neonatal stroke can be detected while the baby is still in utero. A fetal MRI would be performed on the mother, which would detect whether the fetus had a stroke. If the stroke is severe, it may be detected using an ultrasound. Additional imaging must be performed once the baby is born to confirm the diagnosis. If a neonatal stroke has been diagnosed, treatment options will depend on the severity of the stroke and the cognitive function that was affected. There are several ways to treat a neonatal stroke, including:

  • Therapeutic hypothermia: Also known as “brain cooling,” this cooling technique increases the chance of survival without increasing the risk of long-term disability. It is administered locally on the head, slowing brain activity and preventing further damage. This treatment can also prevent the brain from overheating due to increased blood flow.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy: This involves putting the baby in a pressurized room with 100 percent oxygen. This allows the baby to inhale more oxygen than they would be able to breathe alone, which can help make up for the oxygen lost due to the stroke.
  • Urokinase: This is a thrombolytic agent obtained from human neonatal kidney cells. It is administered via injection and can help control bleeding.
  • Heparin: This anticoagulant can reduce blood clotting and prevent the formation of harmful clots in blood vessels.

What Types of Medical Errors Can Cause a Neonatal Stroke?

While the majority of neonatal strokes are not preventable, those that are caused by a medical error are avoidable if the healthcare professional responsible for the baby’s care provides the standard of care that a reasonably competent healthcare professional would provide under similar circumstances. The following are examples of avoidable medical errors:

  • Improper resuscitation of a newborn.
  • Failure to order or delayed order of a C-section.
  • Failure to properly monitor a pregnancy, including the health of the baby and the mother.
  • Negligent use of vacuum extraction of forceps.
  • Failure to diagnose or treat placental abruption.
  • Failure to appropriately respond to the mother’s bleeding.
  • Failure to stop preterm labor.
  • Failure to monitor and treat fetal distress.
  • Failure to guard against, identify, and treat infection.
  • Failure to order proper care for a woman with a high-risk pregnancy.
  • Failure to order and analyze prenatal tests.
  • Failure to treat umbilical cord entrapment.
  • Failure to note and treat signs of oxygen deprivation in the fetus.
  • Failure to monitor and prepare to deliver a larger or premature baby.
  • Misuse of Pitocin, which is used to induce or speed up labor.

What Should I Do if My Baby’s Neonatal Stroke Was Caused by Negligence?

If your baby suffered a neonatal stroke and you believe that medical negligence was involved, you may want to consider filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the healthcare provider responsible for your baby’s care. You must collect as much evidence as possible, including medical records, test results, and how your doctor responded when your child presented symptoms. Hiring an experienced birth injury lawyer to protect your legal rights and recommend the best legal course of action is crucial.

Our Washington, D.C. Birth Injury Lawyers at the Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates Represent Clients Whose Child Suffered a Neonatal Stroke

If your baby suffered a neonatal stroke or any other type of birth injury, do not hesitate to contact our Washington, D.C. birth injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates. 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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