The most common sign that a fetal laceration has occurred is a visible cut or nick on the skin. These can vary in severity and lead to three classifications:
- Mild: only impacts the skin, may heal on its own.
- Moderate: involves both the skin and muscle, may require surgery.
- Severe: involves the skin, muscle, bone, and other structures like nerves.
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Conditions That Indicate a Fetal Laceration
There are a number of conditions your child may develop as a result of a fetal laceration, including:
Erb’s palsy is a type of brachial plexus palsy. The brachial plexus refers to the group of nerves around the neck and upper arm that allow you to move your shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers. Depending on the severity of the injury, an infant with Erb’s palsy may suffer from a temporary lack of mobility that could improve with treatment and therapy, or the child may never recover full mobility. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), one or two of every 1,000 infants is diagnosed with Erb’s palsy, most from having their necks stretched during delivery. However, a brachial plexus injury can also be caused by a fetal laceration that cuts a nerve.
Facial Nerve Palsy
Facial nerve palsy refers to the loss of controllable muscle movement in a baby’s face. It may occur because of pressure on facial nerves during delivery, sometimes because of the use of forceps. A scalpel can also damage facial nerves during delivery. The American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology (AJOG) reported in 2009 that 70 percent of fetal lacerations occur on the head, face, or ears. Another 20 percent occur below the waist; on the buttocks, legs, or ankles; while 10 percent occur on the back.
Hearing and Vision Loss
Because lacerations to the head and face are the most common according to the AJOG, there is an increased risk that lacerations could occur to the ears or eyes. While not all children will suffer long-term consequences from fetal lacerations, one determining factor for this is the depth of the laceration. Cuts that are moderate and severe can damage muscle or bone. If the laceration occurs on or around the baby’s eyes or ears, it may lead to long-term or permanent damage, resulting in a partial or total loss of hearing or vision.
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Risk Factors for Fetal Lacerations
There are a number of factors that may increase the likelihood of a fetal laceration during a C-section delivery, including:
- Inexperienced physician or surgeon
- Emergency C-section to deliver an infant in distress, particularly during active labor
Without proper experience, a surgeon may overlook key steps or precautions that would otherwise mitigate the likelihood of a laceration, particularly moderate or severe lacerations. For example, they may use a “J” or inverted “T” incision rather, which is more likely to cause a fetal injury compared to a transverse or vertical incision. They may also fail to be meticulous about suctioning the site of the incision or taking other steps to minimize the risk of a birth injury.
Treatment for Fetal Lacerations
The possible treatment options for fetal lacerations depend on the severity of the injury and location. If the fetal laceration is mild, it may heal itself without any treatment by the physician. Even lacerations that are moderate could be treated with a topical tissue adhesive.
However, if the wound is deeper and affects the muscle, nerves, and bones, more serious damage may occur and immediate surgical treatment is essential to repair the deep structures.
Even with immediate treatment by a surgical team, there may only be so much they can do. If your child has a brachial plexus injury, for example, the child may always have weakness or a lack of mobility in his or her shoulder and arm. While there may be procedures that can be performed at a later time to improve the arm’s function, the damage could be permanent.
Newborn parents may not fully understand the long-term impact that their child’s fetal laceration can have financially. The child could require future surgical procedures, visits to specialists, and years of physical therapy to overcome the limitations created by a fetal laceration.
If you believe a fetal laceration has occurred due to the negligence of a physician, you may be entitled to compensation for your family’s current losses and the future impact on your lives.
For a free review of your case, call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 222-9529.