Can Chorioamnionitis Cause Cerebral Palsy?


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Some form of chorioamnionitis occurs in around 1 - 5 percent of all full-term births in America and can affect 40 - 70 percent of preterm births. If left untreated, mild cases of chorioamnionitis can sometimes progress into serious, potentially deadly infections for both the mother and baby.

What Is Chorioamnionitis And How Is It Diagnosed?

Chorioamnionitis comes from the two membranes surrounding a fetus: the chorion and the amnion. It is a condition characterized by inflammation of the tissues or membranes around a fetus and is typically caused by a bacterial infection. Not all inflammation of this type is clinically significant or dangerous, but serious cases can quickly become deadly.

Clinically significant chorioamnionitis can cause symptoms in the mother, including fever, uterine tenderness, rapid heart rate, and vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor or unusual color. It may also cause a rapid heart rate in the fetus. The most common bacteria that lead to chorioamnionitis are group B strep and E.coli.

Is Chorioamnionitis Preventable?

While chorioamnionitis isn’t completely preventable, a good doctor will identify patients with risk factors and monitor them more closely for signs that chorioamnionitis has developed or will likely develop if nothing is done.

The factors that put a woman at higher risk of chorioamnionitis include:

  • premature labor
  • if your water breaks more than 24 hours before delivery
  • long labor
  • vaginal infection or sexually transmitted infection
  • the presence of group B strep in or around the vagina
  • frequent vaginal exams after your water breaks
  • internal fetal or uterine monitoring

While many of these risk factors can’t be prevented or avoided, some things can be done to lower the risk of chorioamnionitis, including:

  • taking antibiotics if your water breaks early
  • limiting vaginal exams after your water breaks
  • screening for group B strep in the third trimester

How Is Chorioamnionitis Treated?

Like most bacterial infections, treatment typically involves antibiotics. Depending on the infection's severity and the baby's gestational age, it may also be necessary to deliver your baby early. In these cases, giving the baby antibiotics after birth may be necessary. When left untreated, or if not treated soon enough, chorioamnionitis can lead to life-threatening complications in the mother and baby.

What Complications Are Possible?

In serious cases of chorioamnionitis, potential complications for the mother include:

  • infections in the pelvic region or abdomen
  • pelvic abscesses
  • inflammation of the uterus
  • blood clots
  • hemorrhage
  • sepsis (a life-threatening blood infection)
  • death

Chorioamnionitis can also cause complications for the unborn child and may result in long-lasting disabilities for the child after birth. These complications can include:

  • premature birth
  • neonatal sepsis
  • meningitis
  • pneumonia
  • chronic lung disease
  • brain injury
  • death either before or after birth

Brain injury, usually due to the brain not receiving enough oxygen, can cause lifelong problems, including cerebral palsy and other neurodevelopmental disabilities. The risk of cerebral palsy and other disabilities is higher when the baby is preterm. But even in full-term babies, chorioamnionitis increases the risk of cerebral palsy four-fold.

Did Medical Malpractice Play A Role?

Medical professionals can’t always prevent chorioamnionitis, and infections can occur even when they do everything right. However, it’s also possible for a doctor’s action (or inaction) to cause infection or contribute to poor outcomes when the correct treatment isn’t provided promptly.

Medical malpractice can worsen an infection or its complications when doctors fail to:

  • identify risk factors and monitor at-risk patients more closely
  • diagnose an infection before it’s too late
  • treat the infection appropriately once it’s diagnosed
  • deliver the baby if recommended by current medical guidelines
  • treat an infected infant immediately after birth if recommended by current medical guidelines

Medical malpractice can also be suspected if infection developed following multiple vaginal exams after your water has broken, if you’re not screened for group B strep in the third trimester, or if antibiotics are not provided if your water breaks early.

If you believe that any of the above situations contributed to serious complications or death during or immediately following pregnancy, you must contact a qualified attorney immediately. Medical malpractice cases can be complex, and, generally, Pennsylvania only allows two years from the time of an injury to file your claim. So don’t delay.

Why Choose Ross Feller Casey?

The legal experts at Ross Feller Casey have a long history of winning medical malpractice and cerebral palsy lawsuits for our clients. Our team of lawyers and Ivy League-trained doctors are ready to put their experience to work for you. We’ve recovered more than $3 billion for our clients, including hundreds of multimillion-dollar recoveries.

You’re entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering if a healthcare professional’s negligence caused your injury. We’ll work to get you every penny you deserve. Consultations are free, and there’s no fee unless you win. Contact us today.

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