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Failure to Diagnose Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus and Medical Malpractice

Medical negligence can occur in a variety of ways as it relates to hydrocephalus. First, doctors may fail to identify hydrocephalus while your child is still in the womb. Also, medical errors during labor and delivery may result in head trauma that causes hydrocephalus. After a baby is born, failure to diagnose hydrocephalus can allow the condition to progress, ultimately causing permanent disabilities. There are a variety of techniques that can be used to confirm a hydrocephalus diagnosis, including physical examinations and imaging tests.

If your child is diagnosed with hydrocephalus, physicians must immediately take action to relieve the pressure on the brain. Often, they will perform surgery to insert a shunt system in the brain. The purpose of a shunt is to drain cerebrospinal fluid and prevent further accumulation in the brain. Failure to diagnose or treat hydrocephalus can lead to brain damage or even death. 

When a newborn or child suffers from hydrocephalus, the results can be devastating damage to the brain that can disrupt cognitive development and function. If your child has suffered due to an injury related to a failure to diagnose hydrocephalus, and you suspect that it was because of a doctor's negligence, skilled Baltimore medical malpractice attorney at Prime Law Firm may be able to help. We know that this is not an easy time for you and your family, but you can take solace in knowing we fight hard for our clients' rights.

Symptoms of Hydrocephalus in Infants and Small Children

Due to the debilitating impact of hydrocephalus on the brain function of children, it is important to diagnose and treat the condition before the damage becomes severe enough to impact learning, motor function, and reasoning skills. 

Recognition of the symptoms is the first step toward a diagnosis and when your doctor notices the following symptoms, he or she should initiate tests to rule out any conditions that could be the cause. Failure to order tests when a child is symptomatic for this disorder can be considered a form of malpractice or negligence.

  • Intense irritability that does not seem to pass.
  • A constant downward gaze in newborns.
  • Sudden high pitched crying that only lasts momentarily.
  • A bulge in the fontanelle, or the soft spot of the skull, which may reveal a buildup in pressure.
  • Fatigue or excessive tiredness.
  • Vomiting.
  • Inability to concentrate or the loss of reasoning skills.
  • Uncontrollable movement of the eyes, the crossing of the eyes or changes in the space between the eyes.
  • Urinary incontinence or the loss of bowel control.
  • Uncontrolled muscle movements or spasms.
  • Seizures.

Hydrocephalus can cause severe damage to the areas of the brain responsible for reasoning, learning, and memory. Children suffering from this condition may show sudden short-term memory loss or have sudden changes in behavior or attitude. 

This can include outbursts, sudden depression or irrational behavior. If you notice any of these sudden changes, seek medical attention for your child.

Treatment of Hydrocephalus

Our New York Hydrocephalus attorneys often try cases that involve the needless injury of our clients due to a simple failure to provide timely treatment. When hydrocephalus is detected and treated in a prompt manner, it is possible to mitigate or prevent the brain damage that occurs from the buildup of pressure inside of the brain. 

Patients who are suffering from this condition undergo a rather complex procedure in which a shunt is created inside of the head to remove excess fluid and prevent the buildup of pressure.

A hole is drilled into the skull and a system of tubes, catheters, and a pressure activated valve and reservoir system is created to remove excess fluid from the brain as it begins to build up. 

The valve is designed to activate when the pressure inside of the skull reaches an unsafe level and the system then flushes the fluid buildup, decreasing the pressure buildup in the process. This system is not perfect and the shunt must be monitored and tested on a regular basis to ensure it is working properly. Additionally, patients with this condition should be monitored regularly for symptoms of excessive pressure inside of the skull.

A Doctor's Duty to Diagnose

Many medical injuries are preventable and patients should not be held financially responsible for the mistakes of their physicians. When a doctor misses a diagnosis, he or she is liable to provide compensation for the medical treatment of any injuries or medical complications that have resulted from a failed diagnosis. 

The compensation that the victim is entitled to include the cost of medical care, loss of income or financial opportunity, out of pocket expenses, pain and suffering and the long-term economic impact of any conditions that may have resulted from the error. Caring for children with developmental or neurological conditions can be financially taxing and parents should never be forced to bear this financial burden in addition to the pain of watching their children struggle.

Suing for Medical Malpractice in Diagnosing Hydrocephalus

Diagnosing hydrocephalus usually requires scans and tests to confirm the diagnosis, but initial signs and symptoms of hydrocephalus are somewhat obvious. Water on the brain and increased pressure in the head can be extremely painful and cause severe headaches. Infants typically cry a lot, but attentive physicians should be able to tell when the crying is caused by pain and not the typical issues a newborn faces.

Additionally, newborns with hydrocephalus usually present with an enlarged head, which should inspire a doctor to investigate further.
If your doctor fails to diagnose hydrocephalus, their care may be considered negligent. The legal definition of negligence in a medical malpractice case is a failure to use the proper care and skill to provide medical care that meets the standard of care. This standard is not set by a rulebook or list of definitions, but rather by the objective standard of what a reasonable physician would do in your case. If your doctor unreasonably ignored warning signs of hydrocephalus and failed to diagnose and treat your baby until the condition was advanced or until your child passed away, the doctor should be held accountable.

Compensation for Undiagnosed Hydrocephalus in Infants

When suing for medical malpractice, the goal is to receive financial compensation for the injuries the patient faced. In the case of a delayed diagnosis of hydrocephalus, there are a few problems you can sue for. First, you can claim damages for the pain and suffering and other effects that should have been avoided by prompt medical treatment. While surgery and recovery for hydrocephalus treatment might hurt, it helps a patient avoid the ongoing pain and discomfort as well as the potentially permanent injuries and death of untreated hydrocephalus. Second, you can sue for the additional medical care costs that arise from undiagnosed conditions. If your child's condition goes unchecked, your baby might need more invasive brain surgery that would have been unnecessary with timely treatment.

You can also sue the negligent healthcare provider for other effects outside of the pain and medical care. Even though your child may be an infant now, undiagnosed hydrocephalus could cause permanent problems that will affect your child into the future. This may require additional surgeries, medication, rehabilitation, and occupational therapy. Moreover, it may affect your child's future ability to work and earn a living. These future care costs and the cost of future lost wages can be claimed in addition to damages for the future pain and suffering your child's infant hydrocephalus will cause them.

Your attorney can help you understand what your case is worth and how to claim these damages. Typically, it is simple enough to prove the cost of care your child already received by producing medical bills and financial statements. Proving future projected damages may require working with a financial expert who can help prove your damages in court. Proving pain and suffering is often complex, especially with infants, but your attorney can help prove these damages in your case.

Consult a Hydrocephalus Attorney about your Child's Case

If your child has been diagnosed with hydrocephalus and you suspect medical negligence during prenatal screening, labor and delivery, or pediatric treatment caused complications, contact our medical malpractice attorneys for a case evaluation. Having assisted countless birth injury and pediatric malpractice victims, we are thoroughly prepared to answer your questions and explain your legal options.