Whether fetal lacerations need treatment depends on the severity of the injury. Minor lacerations can be treated with a topical tissue adhesive, while moderate to severe lacerations require surgery. In some cases, if the injury is mild, it may not require treatment at all.
Fetal lacerations are classified into three different categories, based on their severity. The categories are:
- Mild: these only affect the skin and resolve themselves because they are superficial.
- Moderate: these involve the skin as well as the muscle and require surgical treatment.
- Severe: these affect the muscle, bones, and possibly even nerves depending on the location of the injury.
Moderate and severe lacerations require surgical intervention to repair the tissue and nerves and minimize the likelihood of complications.
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Complications from Fetal Lacerations
There are a number of complications and conditions that can stem from a moderate or severe fetal laceration, including:
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Brachial Plexus Injuries
The brachial plexus is the network of nerves near the neck that controls movement in the arm and hand. A penetrating wound, like damage from a scalpel during a C-section, can damage or cut the nerve. This type of injury cannot heal on its own and will require immediate surgery. For every 1,000 babies, one to two suffers from a brachial plexus injury, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. And while these injuries usually occur because the nerves are stretched during delivery, it can also occur during a C-section because of a fetal laceration.
Facial Nerve Palsy
The American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology (AJOG) reports that fetal lacerations occur approximately 70% of the time to the head, face, and ear. If the infant’s face is cut during the C-section delivery and the nerve is severed, no nerve signals can get through to tell the facial muscles to contract, essentially paralyzing those muscles. Surgical intervention is critical in those cases, although movement may never be fully restored.
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Vision and Hearing Loss
Even though fetal lacerations only occur in an estimated 0.7% to 1.9% of deliveries, per the AJOG, in the vast majority of those cases, the damage occurs to the head, ear, and face. If a moderate or severe laceration occurs around the eye or ear, it could result in a partial or full loss of vision or hearing.
While there are numerous types of conditions that can impact your child physically, it is also important to consider the psychological impact that a laceration will have on them long term. The AJOG reported on a case where an infant suffered a two centimeter-long laceration on its buttocks. While the wound was minor and easily treated, it also grew as the child grew. By the age of 12, that scar grew into an irregular appearance and became much longer in size: 10 centimeters. Because it was visible and created an irregular appearance, it had a negative impact on the young girl’s psychological well-being.
Understanding How Fetal Lacerations Happen
Now that you understand the major long-term complications that can stem from fetal lacerations, it is important to understand how these types of injuries can occur. The primary risks for fetal lacerations are second stage C-section deliveries, emergency C-sections, ruptured membranes, and inexperienced surgeons.
An inexperienced surgeon can significantly increase the likelihood of a fetal laceration, as they may fail to take the necessary precautions to minimize the risk. For example, if they fail to make sure that the site of the uterine incision is suctioned meticulously or if they fail to sweep the uterine incision with the finger with each pass of the scalpel, there is a higher likelihood of a fetal laceration.
Often when we meet parents whose baby has suffered a fetal laceration, they do not fully understand the long-term impact it could have on their lives. They may still be reeling from the fact that their newborn has a moderate or severe laceration. However, if your child has suffered nerve damage, it could mean years of physical therapy to improve mobility. It could also mean trips to specialists or additional surgical procedures for fetal laceration treatments to that part of the body.
These can add up to major costs for a family, adding additional stress to an already stressful situation. The Birth Injury Lawyers Group is here to help. If your child suffered a birth injury and requires fetal laceration treatments as a result of a healthcare professional’s negligence, we can help you hold them responsible for their actions and pursue the compensation you need. For a free, no-risk review of your case, contact the Birth Injury Lawyers Group today at (800) 222-9529.