Errors in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

There are a myriad of reasons a newborn may require neonatal intensive care. Some babies need days, weeks, or even months of this highly specialized care. During this time, babies are fragile and require careful monitoring and precise treatment. The slightest of mistakes in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) patient’s care can have a tremendous impact on the baby’s overall health and wellbeing. Some of the reasons newborn are admitted to NICU include:

• Premature birth
• Birth asphyxia
• Neonatal encephalopathy
• Neonatal cardiac issues
• Genetic disorder
• Infection

Medication Errors
This vulnerable group of patients is susceptible to many mistakes, the most common among them is medication errors. Unfortunately, medical errors in the NICU are not a rarity. In fact, among this group of patients, potentially adverse drug effects occurred eight times more frequently then with adult hospital patients. Overdose of potent drugs such as Heparin and Morphine bear a heightened risk of causing significant patient harm. Neonates, particularly low birth weight babies, are especially defenseless against medication errors with their body’s limited ability to guard itself against these mistakes.

Resuscitation Errors
Sometimes newborns are not breathing properly or have irregular heartbeats at birth. Any delay in resuscitation could cause the baby’s brain to be deprived of oxygen. Additionally, failure to expeditiously and properly insert a breathing tube when necessary, can lead to oxygen deprivation.

Breathing Machine Settings Errors
The settings on NICU ventilators must be closely monitored. If breaths are administered too rapidly to the infant, excessive loss of CO2 occurs. This hypocarbia constricts blood vessels in the brain, causing decreased blood flow.

Failure to Quickly Diagnose and Treat Jaundice
Jaundice is the yellowing of the baby’ eyes and skin due to excessive bilirubin, a product of red blood cell breakdown. This action occurs rapidly in all infants, however, some babies can process the bilirubin more readily than others. Those who cannot, may accumulate toxic levels of bilirubin which can cause a form of brain damage known as kernicterus.

Other NICU errors can include:

• Mistakenly positioned feeding tubes, central lines, and IVs
• Failure to quickly diagnose and treat neonatal hypoglycemia
• Failure to treat neonatal seizures
• Failure to timely diagnose and treat hypothermia
• Mismanagement of neonatal encephalopathy, meningitis, and brain bleeds

The consequences of medical care errors in the NICU can be devastating. Tiny bodies have limited means to fend off medical errors and can suffer strokes, seizures, and brain damage. All of which can lead to permanent disabilities including cerebral palsy.

Contact NICU Injury Lawyers
At Patrick Malone & Associates, our NICU injury lawyers have extensive experience representing injured babies and families in Washington, DC metro area, Virginia, and throughout the State of Maryland. We know how devastating it can be when your baby is injured in the NICU. If your baby has been harmed in the NICU by the negligence of a nurse or Neonatologist, call us at 1-202-742-1500 or fill out our confidential contact form for a FREE Consultation and review of your case.

The NICU injury attorneys at Patrick Malone & Associates have successfully represented injured individuals in Washington, DC, Arlington, Alexandria, Annapolis, Rockville, Baltimore, Richmond, Fairfax, Maryland, and throughout Virginia.