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How C-Sections Greatly Increase Your Risk for Infection

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Malpractice Lawyers Fighting for Victims of C-section Medical Mistakes throughout Connecticut

There are certain medical situations which require a cesarean (C-section) form of delivery. This delivery is done by a surgical procedure that involves a physician making an incision through the uterine and abdominal walls. These are major surgical procedures that carry risks; therefore, patients must be aware of those risks. From infection to hemorrhage, these issues must be given significant consideration prior to a patient consenting to the procedure.

What is a C-Section and Why is it Performed?

C-sections may be planned or unplanned. Even scheduled C-sections carry the risk of infection and other complications. Physicians who have performed countless C-sections may also commit an unexpected error, so there is always a risk. The reasons why these procedures are done will vary on factors associated with the mother and the infant.

Common reasons why a physician will perform an unplanned C-section include:

  • The labor is delayed.
  • The baby or mother are in distress before or during labor.
  • The baby is too large for a safe, normal delivery.
  • The umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck.
  • The baby’s positioning is determined to be breached or in another position, which makes vaginal delivery too risky.

Common reasons why a physician would perform a planned C-section include:

  • The mother has an infection that would transfer to the baby in the vaginal canal.
  • The baby is in a head-down position too close to delivery date.
  • The mother is in a weakened condition before her delivery, and is not strong enough to endure normal labor and delivery.
  • The mother has had a previous C-section – the risks of uterine rupture may be too high and the physician wants to perform a C-section instead.
  • The mother is carrying twins or multiple babies at once.
  • The mother is too small to deliver the estimated size of the baby.
  • The mother has an underlying health condition that would make a normal delivery too risky.

Common Risks Associated With the C-Section

There are numerous risks associated with a C-section. While infection is the most common – and the largest reason for lawsuit – there are other risks associated with the surgical procedure, including:

  • Inflammation and infection of the uterus. This is known as endometritis, which causes a foul-smelling discharge, uterine pain, and fever.
  • Increased bleeding. A patient will lose more blood during a C-section than with a vaginal birth; however, fluids typically replace the lost volume without requiring a blood transfusion.
  • Reaction to anesthesia. The patient could experience an adverse reaction to the anesthesia used during the procedure, such as an issue with breathing or a heart attack.
  • Blood clots. It is not uncommon for a person to develop a blood clot after major surgery. Physicians are required to keep an eye on these conditions, and insure that they take steps to prevent them.
  • Surgical site infection. Surgical site infections are more common with a C-section than a normal delivery. This is because the C-section exposes the uterus and internal organs to bacteria and other contaminants. When items are not sterilized properly, or the wound is not cared for properly, the patient could develop an infection around the incision site, in the uterus, or within the tissues. These can become life-threatening if they are not treated quickly.
  • Surgical injuries. While these are rare, a surgical injury may occur to the nearby organs during the procedure, such as damage to the bladder. Surgical injuries are common with multiple C-section patients.

Infection from a C-Section

A post-cesarean wound infection is one that occurs after the C-section. It is typically due to a bacterial infection at the incision site. Common signs include fever of 100.5 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit, wound sensitivity, lower abdominal pain, and oozing from the incision site. These infections must be treated quickly before they are allowed to spread into the tissues and cause life-threatening complications.

Some women are more likely to develop an infection from a C-section than others. High-risk groups of women may include:

  • Women who are obese.
  • Women who suffer from an immunosuppressive disorder, such as HIV.
  • Women who suffer from an infection of the amniotic fluid or fetal membrane while in labor.
  • Women who have undergone long-term steroid use.
  • Women who have had inadequate or poor prenatal care.
  • A woman who has had previous C-sections.
  • A woman who does not take antibiotics or use the pre-incision antimicrobial care as instructed by the physician.
  • A woman who loses too much blood during the procedure.
  • Long labors or long surgical procedures.

Also, women who receive nylon sutures after a C-section are more likely to experience an infection than those who do not. Staples can also lead to surgical site infections, which is why more physicians will use polyglycolide (PGA) instead.

The most common infections associated with a C-section include:

  • Cellulitis. This is a wound infection that results from a Staph or strep bacterial infection. The strains are normally found on the skin, which means the surgical site was not properly disinfected. Cellulitis creates infected tissue under the skin, which then becomes painfully inflamed. The redness and swelling will spread quickly to nearby skin, and the area is red and tender to the touch.
  • Wound abscesses. Wound abscesses are caused by the same bacteria that cause other types of infection. However, these create pus-filled sacs under the skin that ooze from the incision site. They can lead to scar tissue, ovary infections, and other infections of the surrounding organs.
  • Thrush. Thrush is a fungal infection caused by Candida. This is present in the human body; however, it can thrive in those with antibiotics or steroids in their body. Those with a weakened immune system are more likely to contract thrush post-surgery, as well.
  • Urinary tract infection. Because this procedure requires the use of a catheter, it is not uncommon for a woman to suffer from a urinary tract infection (UTI) or bladder infection. These infections occur because of E. coli in the body, but are treatable with an antibiotic.

Not all Infections Are the Result of Medical Malpractice

Not all infections after a C-section are considered medical malpractice. Instead, the patient must prove that the hospital, healthcare provider, or physician was negligent in causing the infection. If the patient refuses to follow post-operative care and develops an infection, then the patient is at fault for the infection occurring – not the physician.

Some infections are more likely if the patient has a weakened immune system or is taking certain medications. If the physician discusses the risks of these infections with the patient at the time when she consents to the C-section, it is unlikely that the physician would be held responsible for the injury, because the patient was aware of these risks. However, physicians owe their patients a duty of care; therefore, the physician should take steps to prevent an infection from occurring when the patient is a high-risk patient. If the physician does not, he or she could be considered liable.

What if a C-Section Was Unnecessary and Caused Injury?

While there are reasons for a C-section to be performed, there are also reasons why a C-section would be considered unnecessary. This would require having another physician in the same type of practice review the patient’s chart and the physician’s actions. Then, the alternate physician would need to determine if the performing physician acted negligently, or if he or she would not have done the procedure in the first place.

In certain situations, it may be difficult to determine if the C-section was necessary or not. The courts have typically held that there is no negligence for a physician if he or she reasonably evaluates the risk factors and performs a C-section to avoid those risks. Even after a medical review were to suggest that the procedure was not necessary, the courts are still unlikely to hold the doctor liable for making a fair decision in the middle of the situation.

The physician may be considered liable for an unnecessary C-section if there is no presented basis for doing the C-section in the first place. These situations are extremely rare.

Legal Remedies Available for C-Section Infections and Other Injuries

If a patient suffers from an infection or other life-threatening complication that was preventable, he or she may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the physician who is responsible. Physician malpractice is considered to be an act or omission by the physician that deviates from the established standard of care in the medical sector. As a result, the patient is harmed.

If a patient or the infant is harmed during a C-section because of physician negligence, they may be able to file a claim against the doctor, as well as the hospital where the surgery was performed – especially if the infection resulted from hospital practices. To win the case, however, a patient must have a medical malpractice attorney on his or her side. The plaintiff must also establish several factors:

  • The doctor owed a duty of care. This physician was performing the C-section and was required to do so per the medical standard of care set by other physicians performing similar procedures.
  • The doctor deviated from the acceptable standard of care. This “standard” is examined by comparing the physician’s actions against others in the same field.
  • The deviation from that standard led to the injury of the mother or infant.
  • The deviation was the direct cause of the patient’s injuries. Even if a physician deviates from practice, if he or she is not the proximate cause of the patient’s injury, then he or she is not liable.

Speak With a Medical Malpractice Attorney About Your Post-Operation Infection Case

When a patient suffers from a serious injury or infection after a C-section, she should consult with a malpractice attorney to see if there are any legal ramifications available. Contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC today to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation. Call 866-479-7909 or contact us online to get started.

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