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Common Heart Defects in Newborns – Are They Malpractice?

Written by Berkowitz

newborn heart defectIn the United States, eight out of 1000 births each year have a newborn with a heart defect of some kind. The causes of these defects range from genetics to medications used during pregnancy, to other problems that were not detected due to inadequate prenatal care. Certain medications, such as those used to treat depression and anxiety, have been linked to newborn heart defects. Sometime, these defects affect the baby minorly, while at other times, these defects are life-threatening or even long-term. The cost of these defects, however, can be detrimental to the new parents.

How Are the Defects Diagnosed?

Most heart defects are detected on a sonogram. This is done during the mother’s pregnancy. The screening is part of an in-depth ultrasound that is performed between 16 and 20 weeks in the pregnancy. It is standard practice for the ultrasound technician to examine all four chambers of the baby’s heart and look for signs of defects. If a defect or abnormality is detected, the ultrasound technician will inform the overseeing physician. Then, the physician may order additional tests to diagnose a heart defect.

When abnormalities are detected, a fetal echocardiogram is the typical test ordered to diagnose any heart condition in utero. There are three types of defects that typically affect fetuses. These include:

  1. Ventricular Septal Defect – This refers to a hole in between the ventricles. Because of the hole, the oxygenated and deoxygenated bloods are mixed, leading to a whole host of symptoms. Sometimes this condition will heal on its own, while other times surgery is required to fix it.
  2. Atrial Septal Defect – This is a hole in the wall that separates the Atria and the upper chambers of the heart.
  3. Pulmonary Stenosis – This occurs when the pulmonary artery is narrowed. It can obstruct blood flow and cause the right artery to become overdeveloped.

When proper prenatal testing is not done, all three of these abnormalities can go undetected. They are then detected when the baby is born; by then, it may be too late – or very complex – to correct the issue for the newborn.

Is a Defect Caused by Malpractice?

If the physician failed to order proper testing, or did not monitor the mother for medications known to cause heart defects, that physician would be considered negligent. In this instance, the physician could be held liable for malpractice. Also, if the ultrasound technician failed to perform the heart examination as part of the screening, that technician, or the clinic where he or she works, could also be held liable for the baby’s defect.

To determine if your child’s heart defect is an issue of medical malpractice, you will need to speak with a Connecticut medical malpractice attorney. Contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC today to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation. Call 866-479-7909 or contact us online to get started.