Medical Verdicts

Was fetus’ wrist injured during cesarean delivery?

Notable judgments and settlements



Was fetus’ wrist injured during cesarean delivery?

At 34 weeks’ gestation, a 39-year-old woman went to the hospital in preterm labor. Her history included a prior cesarean delivery. Ultrasonography (US) showed that the fetus was in a double-footling breech position. The ObGyn decided to perform a cesarean delivery when the fetal heart-rate monitor indicated distress.

After making a midline incision through the earlier scar, the ObGyn created a low transverse uterine incision with a scalpel. The mother’s uterus was thick because labor had not progressed. When the ObGyn was unable to deliver the baby through the low transverse incision, she performed a T-extension of the incision using bandage scissors while placing her free hand inside the uterus to shield the fetus from injury. After extensive manipulation, the baby was delivered and immediately handed to a neonatologist. After surgery, the neonatologist told the mother that the baby had sustained two lacerations to the ulnar side of the right wrist. The newborn was airlifted to another hospital for treatment of sepsis. There, an orthopedic hand surgeon examined the child and determined that the lacerations were superficial and only required sutures. The orthopedist saw the infant a month later and believed there was no significant wrist injury.

When the child began preschool, she started to experience cold intolerance and difficulty writing with her right hand. The child was referred to a pediatric neurologist, who found no nerve damage and ordered occupational therapy.

The original orthopedic surgeon examined the child when she was 7 years old and determined that the flexor carpi ulnaris tendon had been completely severed with a partial injury to the ulnar nerve. He recommended a return visit at age 14 for full assessment of the wrist injury.

PARENTS’ CLAIM The ObGyn did not properly shield the fetus when performing the T-extension incision during cesarean delivery. The child’s weakness will increase with age, ruling out some occupations.

PHYSICIAN’S DEFENSE The ObGyn was not negligent; she had provided adequate protection of the fetus during both incisions.

VERDICT An Illinois defense verdict was returned.

Woman dies after tubal ligation

After a 42-year-old woman underwent tubal ligation, her surgeon was concerned about a possible bowel perforation and admitted her to the hospital. The next morning, a computed tomography (CT) scan of the abdomen did not reveal bowel injury.

That afternoon, when the patient reported shortness of breath, the surgeon called the hospitalist with concern for pulmonary embolism (PE). The hospitalist immediately ordered a CT scan of the chest, initiated PE protocol, and wrote “r/o PE” on the chart. A radiologist reminded the hospitalist of the earlier CT scan with concern for kidney damage from another dye study. The hospitalist cancelled the CT scan and PE protocol. After waiting 17 hours to run any further tests, a CT scan revealed massive bilateral PE. The patient was transferred to the ICU, but died the next day.

PATIENT’S CLAIM The 17-hour delay was negligent.

PHYSICIAN’S DEFENSE There was no negligence. The patient died of septic shock, not PE.

VERDICT A $4 million Virginia verdict was returned.

Child born without hand and forearm

During prenatal care, a mother underwent US at 20 and 36 weeks; both studies were reported as normal. The child was born missing his left hand and part of his left forearm due to a congenital amputation. The child will require prosthetics for life.

PATIENT’S CLAIM The condition should have been seen during prenatal US; an abortion was still an option at 20 weeks.

DEFENDANTS’ DEFENSE US was properly performed and evaluated. It can be difficult to differentiate the right from left extremities.

VERDICT A California defense verdict was returned.

After starting Yasmin, woman has stroke with permanent paralysis: $16.5M total award

When a 37-year-old woman reported irregular menstruation, her ObGyn prescribed drospirenone/ethinyl estradiol (Yasmin; Bayer). Thirteen days after starting the drug, the patient had a stroke. She is paralyzed on her left side, has limited ability to speak, cannot use her left arm and leg, and requires 24-hour care.

PATIENT’S CLAIM The ObGyn should have recognized that Yasmin was not appropriate for this patient because of the drug’s clotting risks. The patient’s risk factors included her age (over 35), borderline hypertension, overweight, history of smoking, and high cholesterol. The ObGyn should have offered safer alternatives, such as a progesterone-only pill. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety warning that all drospirenone-containing drugs may be associated with a higher risk of venous thrombosis during the first 6 months of use.

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