Complications during labor can cause a wide variety of different types of birth injuries. Some birth injuries can cause immediate or treatable conditions, while others may have severe or life-altering implications. Early diagnosis and treatment can be extremely helpful in preventing long-term effects of some birth injuries. Unfortunately, delays in diagnosis and misdiagnoses are common and prevent infants from receiving needed care.
Delays in Birth Injury Diagnosis
Medical professionals are trained to recognize symptoms of birth injuries and are accountable for taking necessary action. If a medical professional fails to order proper diagnostic testing, it may cause birth injuries to go untreated. This can cause conditions to pass beyond a treatable point, or can allow conditions to worsen in severity. If symptoms were present and medical professionals had reason to suspect the possibility of birth injuries, a failure to diagnose or a delayed diagnosis may be considered medical malpractice.
Complication Monitoring during Delivery
While the birthing process is happening, medical professionals are required to carefully monitor vital signs. A fetal monitor may show signs of oxygen deprivation that may indicate complications such as umbilical cord prolapse. The positioning of the baby must also be monitored during delivery to alert medical staff to the possibility of complications that may cause birth injuries. Monitoring the mother and infant during labor can help medical professionals recognize symptoms that may help with early birth injury diagnosis.
Birth Injury Diagnosis after Delivery
After delivery, medical professionals should do a thorough examination to rule out birth injuries and other complications. If there are any abnormalities in the shape or color of the baby’s head or body, diagnostic testing should be ordered to check for head trauma that would cause swelling or organ damage that would affect coloration. Breathing problems may indicate meconium aspiration, which occurs when babies breathe in a mixture of stool and amniotic fluid.
Birth Injury Diagnosis after Release
Many birth injuries are not diagnosed until after the baby goes home and begins to show abnormal behaviors or miss developmental milestones. Parents should be diligent when it comes to watching for signs that may help to diagnose birth injuries. If extreme symptoms such as seizures occur, medical help should be sought immediately. If more subtle indications are present, parents should note any concerns and speak with medical professionals during a well baby visit. If there is cause for believing that birth injuries may be present, physicians should be filled in on the circumstances so that proper diagnostic testing can be ordered.
Birth Injury Diagnostic Testing
A general assessment is the first step that doctors take in birth injury diagnosis. Muscle and reflex testing may be done to diagnose muscle density variances. Cognitive tests may be given in an effort to diagnose cognitive disorders or impairments. The baby’s physical condition will also be thoroughly examined so that any health problems or physical complications that may indicate nerve damage or other types of birth injuries can be detected.
An electroencephalogram, or EEG, tests brain activity to diagnose abnormalities in brain function. If a child has cerebral palsy, brain waves may not be transmitted in the normal fashion within the brain. Certain parts of the brain may also be deadened or dormant and an EEG may help physicians to detect this. An EEG may also be helpful in diagnosing other types of brain damage caused by birth injuries.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, uses magnets to generate an image of the body. This test can help physicians to spot abnormalities in the brain or body that may indicate birth injuries. MRIs may be helpful in diagnosing cerebral palsy, brachial plexus injuries, and many other types of birth injuries.
Positive Emission Tomography Scan
Positive emission tomography scans, or PET scans, can help physicians to diagnose complications with the way that the body and brain communicate. PET scans use radiation to create a three dimensional image of the body. PET scans can be very helpful in diagnosing conditions such as cerebral palsy and other cognitive disorders.
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“Tests for Determining Cerebral Palsy.” Birth Injury Guide. Birth Injury Guide, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 20 Jan. 2015. <http://www.birthinjuryguide.org/cerebral-palsy/tests/>