Articles Posted in Birth Injury

Cytomegalovirus_01Although awareness has grown about viruses  like Zika that can devastate the unborn, cytomegalovirus (CMV), a much more common and equally harmful prenatal viral  infection, doesn’t get discussed with pregnant moms as much as it should. Medical counseling, testing, and administration of anti-viral medications could save more babies and their families from a lifetime of CMV woes.

More than half of adults older than 40 and one in three children by the age of 5 have been infected with CMV, a common virus in the herpes family. An estimated 1 in 150 babies gets infected at birth with CMV, with 1 in 5 of these infants sickened or harmed, including with hearing loss, microcephaly (a deformity so they have tiny heads), intellectual deficits or impaired vision.  This means CMV seriously harms as many as 8,000 youngsters annually across the United States, and it is fatal for about 400 infants.

Affected families and medical experts have told the New York Times that more needs to be done to increase CMV awareness, testing, and prevention, especially in comparison to the public health attention that has been paid to Zika and the damage it may inflict on the unborn.

Hypodermic-NeedleFederal officials have advanced a key way  to combat the zika virus, permitting clinical trials of a vaccine against the tropical infection.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the preliminary testing  of GLS-5700, an experimental vaccine by Inovio, of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., and GeneOne Life Science, of Seoul, South Korea.

It is the first but not the only vaccine-based effort to attack zika, a rapidly spreading viral infection that afflicts most people in relatively mild fashion (fever, chills, muscle pains) but can cause severe deformities for the unborn if pregnant moms are exposed. Brazil, in particular, has struggled with hundreds of children born with microcephaly after their mothers were zika-exposed.

DiceA globally renowned seismologist, weary of recent scaremongering reports that a major fault in California was “locked, loaded, and ready to roll,” offered a pointed scientific evaluation of risk: “You’re about as likely to be shot by a toddler than die in an earthquake,” she observed. She explained that, in geologic terms with earthquakes, imminent can mean centuries, not milliseconds. Further, over the last 100 years, there have been an average of 40 temblor deaths annually in the Golden State; in 2015 alone, toddlers with guns killed roughly that same number of Americans.

Suddenly, the media fascination with an impending seismic catastrophe receded to more normal concern.

This much publicized discussion of risk underscores the private complexity that many patients confront in harsh, short time spans when they get multiple surgeons’ opinions on whether they should undergo major procedures. Why does one surgeon tell a young patient and his family to wait and try a lot of other treatments for his brain hemorrhages but not an operation? Then why does a second neurosurgeon tell them the boy needs a procedure NOW to save his life?

Although experts may muster masses of data and point to reams of research, simple human stories sometimes persuade us best about dangers to our health. It’s tough not to ask why football holds such veneration as America’s favorite sport, for example, when one of its skilled players gets candid about his damaged post-professional life. And just maybe a mom’s tragic tale about her now-grown daughter’s circumscribed life might warn younger women about the real dangers of drinking during pregnancy.

Ex-pro opens up about football’s brutality

Who isn’t a Redskins fan in Washington? And, at this point, who among the football-obsessed hasn’t heard about the flap over a seemingly straight-forward news update about some football stars, including Antwaan Randle El, a one-time receiver for the Skins and the Pittsburgh Steelers. To the chagrin of those who jaw, endlessly, on sports talk shows, Randle El said he regrets playing football and wished he would have played baseball, instead. He said he was glad that a school football program that he was part of recently got canceled. Yes, the game opened lots of life’s doors and made him financially better off than he ever could have imagined. But the brutal pounding he took for years has affected his health and is starting to lessen his mental cognition, especially his memory, he said.

Health officials and parents in Brazil are grappling with a surge of birth defects traced to mosquitoes. In the last year, more than 2,700 infants have been born with microcephaly, tiny heads and brains that leave children permanently disabled. That rate is about 20 times higher than recent years.

The culprit receiving tentative blame is Zika, a tropical virus named for the Ugandan forest where it was first found decades ago. The infection can cause microcephaly. Its presence was detected in the amniotic fluid of two mothers with microcephalic babies. Health officials also are finding that other moms who delivered malformed children reported Zika symptoms during their pregnancy.

Brazilians have stepped up their long-running and sometimes successful war on aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries Zika and other diseases, including dengue fever, yellow fever, and chikungunya. Before the Zika outbreak, Brazil already was waging a pitched battle against dengue fever, which in 2015 had infected 1 million — twice the number of infections from the year previous. Dengue fever killed at least 839 Brazilians in 2015, an 89 percent increase in fatalities over the year previous.

In a sweeping and horrifically detailed indictment, the New York Times called out the U.S. military hospital system for its shockingly substandard care.

The paper looked at the records of the 40 hospitals across the country run by the armed forces that provide care for 1.35 million active-duty service members and their families, among other patients. The problem of poor care appears to stem from the fact that these hospitals are so small and see so few patients that doctors and nurses don’t get enough experience to diagnose and treat serious illnesses properly. Most of these facilities handle less than one-third as many patients as a typical civilian hospital.

These numbers are so significant that Dr. Lucian L. Leape, a leading patient-safety expert at the Harvard School of Public Health, said, “I think they should be outlawed.”

The news is not surprising, but still shocking: the nation’s military medicine system is rife with lapses in quality of care that hurt service members and their families, and very little is being done about it, according to a long investigative takeout in the New York Times.

I say not surprising, because attorneys like me who represent military families in medical malpractice lawsuits against the government for sub-standard care see a lot of the kinds of problems documented in the Times article.

Pregnancy and newborn care is especially vulnerable to errors that can have lifelong consequences when children are born with brain damage. The Times investigators reported that of the 50,000 babies born at military hospitals each year, they are twice as likely to be injured during delivery as the average for all newborns around the U.S.

No matter how hard medical experts and other promoters of good, safe health care try, it seems, there are always loud voices chiming in from the fringes of ignorance to offset their message.

A few weeks ago, in a blog about obstetricians recommending that women not be rushed into induced labor and also calling for fewer cesarean sections, we revisited the dangers of unnecessary C-sections, and noted that nearly 1 in 3 U.S. women give birth via C-section.

But when Dan Murphy, second baseman for the New York Mets, missed the first two days of the Major League Baseball season, he was berated, belittled and bullied by Mike Francesca and Boomer Esiason, two hosts on New York’s WFAN sports radio. Bad enough that these mic jocks called out Murphy because they believe it’s a higher priority to play a game than it is to attend the birth of your child and support its mother, but, worse, they promoted the idea of planning that birth – by cesarean – for the convenience of your schedule, not the baby’s.

Tegretol (carbamazepine) and Depakote (valproic acid) can be life-saving drugs for people who suffer from epileptic seizures. But these serious medications come with a host of potential side effects that might be unacceptable for pregnant women.

Astonishingly, according to a study by Johns Hopkins published in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior, 1 in 5 U.S. neurologists might be unaware that Tegretol and Depakote can cause severe birth defects and malformations if they are consumed by mothers-to-be.

This is not the first time concerns have been voiced that caregivers fail to acknowledge epilepsy drug risks; we blogged earlier this year on the same topic.

In 1975, the California Legislature passed the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). It was an effort to address what some people deemed a malpractice insurance “crisis” that was boosting insurance premiums and driving doctors out of the state.

The solution to the perceived-or even nonexistent-problem, as recounted by Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik last week, was to impose “draconian restrictions on patient lawsuits.”

Such measures, which deprive people of rightful redress of harms they suffered at the hands of medical professionals, have become fashionable. We have addressed the tsunami of misinformation about these mean-spirited, hurtful efforts to limit malpractice judgments many times-here and here, for example.

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
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