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What Is Meconium Aspiration Syndrome?
Meconium aspiration syndrome is one of the most common life-threatening medical conditions a newborn can experience, appearing in about 5% to 10% of all births. Several risk factors can increase the chance of an infant developing meconium aspiration syndrome, and it is vital for parents to know these risk factors and consult with their doctors closely about any concerns.
How Does Meconium Aspiration Syndrome Happen?
Meconium is the medical term for the first fecal matter a fetus produces in the womb. Under certain conditions, an unborn infant may expel meconium into the amniotic fluid in the mother’s womb and then aspirate it. This can cause a severe infection that can jeopardize the baby’s life. Meconium Aspiration Syndrome most commonly occurs with babies in fetal distress, babies still in the womb past their due dates, and during difficult deliveries.
Treatments for Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
When an attending physician first recognizes the signs of meconium aspiration syndrome, the first step in addressing the issue is to suction the baby’s mouth as soon as possible. This will extract the meconium from the baby’s trachea, and the suction should continue until no trace of meconium appears in the suction device tube. If the meconium causes thick staining or the baby shows signs of distress, then the doctor may insert an endotracheal tube to suction out the last remaining traces of meconium.
A baby who undergoes this treatment will likely need intensive neonatal care. Doctors may administer antibiotics to prevent infection, implement a breathing machine to help keep the baby’s lungs inflated, and use a warmer to maintain body temperature. Light tapping on the baby’s chest can help loosen any secretions for easier removal as well.
In some cases, using suction is not advisable as it can cause a baby to develop pneumonia. If a baby arrives full-term at a healthy size with no signs of fetal distress, then doctors may use a saline solution to clear away meconium staining instead of using deep suction.
Can Malpractice Cause Meconium Aspiration Syndrome?
Difficult labor is the most common cause of meconium aspiration syndrome. A difficult delivery typically means the baby will be moving inside the mother more than usual, and this can make it easier for meconium to dislodge, combine with amniotic fluid, and then become lodged in the baby’s windpipe during delivery. Other risk factors for meconium aspiration syndrome are:
- Decreased fetal oxygen levels while still in utero
- The pregnant mother’s diabetes
- The mother’s high blood pressure
- Difficult labor
- Fetal distress
These issues require immediate attention. If an attending physician did not properly monitor the mother’s or the baby’s vital signs and the baby develops meconium aspiration syndrome as a result, the physician committed medical malpractice and is liable for the resulting damages. A doctor may also face liability for medical malpractice for failing to recognize and address the signs of meconium aspiration syndrome in a newborn.
Damages in a Medical Malpractice Claim
Meconium aspiration syndrome can lead to persistent pulmonary hypertension, collapsed lungs, brain damage from lack of oxygen, aspiration pneumonia, and a host of other possible medical conditions. If a doctor causes this condition due to negligence or failure to meet the appropriate standard of care for the patient’s condition, then the doctor is liable for any medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering resulting from treating the baby’s condition.
It is essential for any parents who have had a child experience meconium aspiration syndrome to know their rights and legal options for recovery. Meconium Aspiration Syndrome has the potential to cause lifelong damage to a newborn baby, and doctors who negligently cause this condition or fail to treat it correctly are responsible for the damage they cause. Learn more by speaking with a Bakersfield medical malpractice lawyer.