Bacterial Meningitis Birth Injury
Were you or your unborn baby the victim of doctor negligence that led to a birth injury? Did the obstetrician make an error that led to neonatal meningitis or other severe infection? The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers handle medical negligence cases and can serve as your legal advocates.
Call our birth injury lawyers today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or use the contact form to schedule a free legal consultation.
Bacterial meningitis is an easily detected and treatable infection that, when left untreated, may cause severe brain and spinal cord injuries damaging the nervous system. Meningitis can present itself as a viral infection.
Newborns or infants may lose their hearing, experience seizures and diminished mental capacity, suffer brain damage, become partially or fully paralyzed, or even die of the infection. Age is one of the risk factors of meningitis, and infants have a higher risk of contracting the illness than the general population.
Many infants show symptoms of the infection, and the slow response of doctors or the failure to detect the infection leaves the newborn with severe consequences that will affect their quality of life.
The resulting birth injuries also place a substantial financial burden on the pregnant woman, and the child's family as medical treatments and assistance for these conditions are costly.
Experienced Bacterial Meningitis Attorney Ready to Help You
Some meningitis infections are sporadic, creating life-threatening conditions that affect newborns. These infections are caused by various bacteria, including listeria, gram-negative E. coli, and group B strep. Listeria can be passed on through the birth canal during pregnancy.
In America, group B beta-hemolytic streptococcus is most common among newborns. Approximately 30% of pregnant women carry the infectious bacteria that could lead to meningitis during the birthing process.
Infected newborns often require effective treatment in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Unfortunately, not all physicians quickly recognize and treat the infection promptly, leading to severe brain infections and other meningitis infections and injuries, including encephalitis, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), and cerebral palsy. Many times, the condition is fatal.
Did you suspect meningitis was compromising your newborn's health? Did the obstetricians fail to perform blood tests to identify bacterial infections correctly, like infant meningitis? Did the doctor fail to prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics and antiviral medications to ensure a timely treatment?
Medical professionals must provide optimal prenatal care to ensure a healthy baby, based on established standards of care, especially during the third trimester. Your doctor's failure to run blood tests could be considered medical malpractice.
When your infant has contracted bacterial meningitis, you will need a Chicago, Illinois medical malpractice attorney on your side to help you file a medical claim. One phone call to our birth injury attorneys can schedule your free consultation where you can receive legal advice about your meningitis lawsuit.
What is Meningitis?
Bacterial meningitis is inflammation of the tissue layers that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges). Newborns that acquire bacterial meningitis usually display signs of irritability, vomiting, or seizures. An accurate diagnosis of meningitis usually requires blood testing and a spinal tap.
Meningitis occurs when a bacterial infection causes inflammation of the spinal cord or the membranes around the brain. Most severe infections are considered viral meningitis, but there can also be fungal meningitis.
It is also not uncommon for a patient to suffer a case of bacterial meningitis or non-polio enteroviruses that go undetected. Pneumonia is a common cause of meningitis.
Meningitis infections are related to encephalitis but are not the same since encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain itself. Common viruses and bacterial infections involving newborns and infants include:
- Herpes simplex virus
- Neonatal Sepsis
- Group B streptococcus
- Bacterial lung infection
- Acute bacterialmeningitis
- Genital herpes
- Cerebral palsy
- Meningococcal bacteria
- Streptococcus pneumonia
- Neisseria meningitidis
- Listeria monocytogenes
- Haemophilus influenza type B
Most babies who develop bacterial or viral infections recover without experiencing any significant long-term damage if their condition is properly diagnosed and treated promptly. Conversely, any failure to diagnose and treat the condition could lead to severe permanent physical and mental conditions or death.
Data shows that nearly every newborn with bacterial meningitis will die from the condition without an accurate diagnosis and treatment. However, with treatment, the prognosis of early-onset bacterial meningitis is slightly better, with the risk of death as high as 20%.
Newborns who survive bacterial meningitis or viral meningitis infection often develop severe nerve and brain problems, like hydrocephalus, where extra fluid accumulates in the brain's open spaces. The condition can lead to intellectual disabilities and hearing loss.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 90% of individuals who developed meningitis caused by meningococcal bacteria survive the infection. However, any delay in the treatment could be catastrophic, leading to long-term effects including deafness, blindness, hydrocephalus brain damage, and seizures.
Viral meningitis belongs to a specific viral group referred to as enteroviruses that can affect adults and children. Enteroviruses could be caused by mumps, herpes simplex virus, West Nile virus, and HIV. Chronic meningitis develops when a slow-growing organism, like fungus attacks the brain fluid and membranes.
Acute Bacterial Meningitis
Acute bacterial meningitis is often the result of bacteria entering the spine and brain from the bloodstream or when the bacterial infection attacks the meninges. The bacterial invasion is often caused by a sinus & ear infection, skull fracture, or surgical procedure.
Delivering a newborn through an infected maternal genital tract could exacerbate a transmission mode of spreading the infection from the mother to the child.
Early Symptoms and Detection: Herpes Simplex Virus, Neonatal Meningitis, Brain and Spinal Cord Damage
Newborns are highly susceptible to contracting infections while their immune systems are still immature— babies who are high-risk lack the ability to fight infections properly.
Many bacterial and viral infections can be transmitted from the mother to the baby during delivery. Therefore, doctors must accurately diagnose an infection in the mother to ensure she receives treatment to protect the baby.
Some of the symptoms of bacterial meningitis are common in most infections, while others are more specific to the central nervous system. A severe infection could lead to inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
A baby suffering from meningitis could appear jaundiced or with respiratory distress or suffer from apnea. Many times, the signs of a compromised central nervous system display as:
- Respiratory problems
- Trouble breathing
- Respiratory problems
- Feeding problems
- Stiff neck
- Development delay
Pregnant women in nursing mothers are asked not to drink unpasteurized milk or consumer products made of unpasteurized ingredients and thoroughly wash raw vegetables before eating.
The neonate might also appear with a bulging or full fontanelle or nuchal rigidity. Doctors could diagnose neonates with meningitis through the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) culture via a spinal tap that reveals abnormal protein and glucose levels and white blood cell count.
Blood cultures require taking blood from the infant. The cultures are then placed on a plate that grows viruses, fungi, or bacteria.
Any indicator of meningitis like thrombocytopenia, shock, or respiratory distress could create a poor clinical condition, requiring treatment even if the diagnosis does not accurately identify meningitis. However, over time, the neonate's clinical condition will likely improve, and the presence of inflammatory cells and abnormal heart rate could diminish.
The pediatrician might prescribe specific medications like gentamicin, ampicillin, and cefotaxime based on culture and susceptibility testing. While treating the infection with antiviral medication or antibiotics, the obstetrician should consider other supportive care, including breathing machines, oxygen, medication, and IV fluids.
Neonates should not be prescribed corticosteroids to treat meningitis. High fever and lethargy are two telltale signs that an infection is present. The specific symptoms of meningitis include:
- Sensitivity to light
- Frequent headaches or pains in the neck
Meningitis can be diagnosed in the family doctor's office or emergency room, where doctors analyze test results. However, a health care provider could play a crucial role in accurately diagnosing meningitis and providing the best treatment, including prescribing corticosteroids to prevent many common meningitis complications.
When the infection is detected early, and antibiotics are administered on time, the infection will die off before the bacteria can cause any serious illness like respiratory distress or long-term harm.
If not treated quickly, however, the infection can cause irreparable damage. If symptoms are present, it may require a simple spinal tap or lumbar puncture to detect the bacteria in spinal fluid and then address it accordingly.
Meningitis is considered a medical emergency. When it results from a medical condition caused by sepsis, the severe condition can be grave. Therefore, medical doctors must take immediate action to save the patient's life.
Long Term Effects
When left untreated, bacterial meningitis attacks nerve and brain function, and the damage cannot be repaired. Common complications that require lifelong care include mental retardation, seizures, spinal cord damage, hearing loss, and paralysis. It may also permanently damage the immune system.
Medical care for these conditions can cost millions of dollars over a lifetime— for conditions resulting from a physician's inability to perform their primary duties correctly.
Bacterial meningitis is treated with antibiotics that are readily available and easily administered. However, there is no excuse for the physicians' failure to diagnose and treat the disease, and this level of negligence falls under medical malpractice.
Is your child suffering from the long-term effects of bacterial meningitis because the infection was not detected or treated promptly? You are entitled to compensation not only for the cost of medical care but for the pain and suffering your child must endure the rest of their life.
Medical Negligence Attorneys in Chicago, IL Who are Committed to Prosecuting Your Case
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC stands by those who are affected by the negligent acts of incompetent doctors. It is our goal to help ease the burden on the victims and their families.
Did your child have undiagnosed bacterial meningitis and is now suffering from irreparable damage? If so, let us begin the process of ensuring your child receives the care they deserve by pursuing damages that will cover the financial cost of a lifetime of care.
We cannot reverse the damage that has been done, but we do have the experience and knowledge required to hold negligent doctors accountable and make life more bearable for those affected by medical malpractice.
Call our law office today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) to schedule a free initial consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share remains private through an attorney-client relationship.
Many medical malpractice cases have already been resolved through million-dollar settlements to ensure families have sufficient financial compensation for providing all the treatment and caring their child requires.