Hypoglycemia & Legal Compensation for Related Malpractice
Sometimes a baby will suffer from very low levels of blood sugar, or glucose. This is known as hypoglycemia. A lack of glucose can ultimately cause brain cells to die, since they have few other sources of energy. Other organs also depend on glucose and may be affected, but the brain typically suffers from low glucose sooner. Prompt diagnosis and treatment should resolve hypoglycemia without serious consequences. On the other hand, a failure to diagnose and treat this condition can result in seizures, vision problems, learning disabilities, cognitive impairments, cerebral palsy, or other disorders.
In addition to producing glucose in their liver, a child receives glucose through the milk of their mother or formula. Before childbirth, a fetus receives glucose from the placenta in the uterus. Problems with producing glucose or breaking down the stored form of glucose, known as glycogen, may cause hypoglycemia. This condition also may result when a child cannot store an adequate supply of glycogen, or when a child has high levels of insulin, which can decrease the glucose in their blood. In other cases, a child may develop hypoglycemia if they suffer from various infections or other conditions that cause them to use more glucose than normal.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Hypoglycemia
Not every case of hypoglycemia involves noticeable signs and symptoms. However, some potential symptoms may include:
Vomiting and loss of appetite
Pale or bluish skin, sweating, or cold body temperature
Hypotonia (a condition when muscles are excessively floppy)
Sometimes a doctor will observe low blood sugar without any symptoms of hypoglycemia, since they will conduct blood tests after childbirth. If a doctor does observe symptoms, or if a risk of hypoglycemia was previously identified, a doctor will send a blood sample promptly after the birth to determine whether the glucose level is too low. A doctor also may use a test strip to avoid any delays in diagnosis. However, the result of a test strip must be confirmed by blood test results from a lab.
Rather than treating hypoglycemia once it develops, doctors often try to prevent the condition before it occurs. This requires understanding and recognizing risk factors for hypoglycemia. Infants subject to higher risks may be tested more often so that any dip in blood sugar levels can be immediately addressed.
A baby with low blood sugar should receive extra feedings. A breast-fed baby may need to have breast milk supplemented with formula if the mother cannot produce enough breast milk. If their condition is severe, or if they cannot feed orally, a child may need to receive an IV solution containing glucose. While most cases of hypoglycemia resolve within several days or even sooner, some children may receive treatment for longer. This is more likely for premature infants, very small infants, or infants dealing with infections.
When these treatments do not sufficiently increase the glucose level, a doctor may prescribe medication or even order a rare surgical procedure. This operation involves removing part of the pancreas, where insulin is made. By curbing the production of insulin, more glucose can remain in the blood.
Compensation for Hypoglycemia Complications
Hypoglycemia is not a challenging condition to diagnose or treat. However, a delayed diagnosis can lead to complications that change a child’s life. They may need medications, therapies, and other treatments that can be expensive. Parents may not be prepared to shoulder this financial burden. If medical errors resulted in brain damage or other complications of hypoglycemia, they can pursue compensation through a lawsuit.
Birth injury cases involve showing that a doctor or another health care provider did not use the appropriate professional care under the circumstances. This lack of proper care must have caused harm to a patient. For example, if a doctor ignored common signs of hypoglycemia, and a baby developed cerebral palsy and vision problems as a result, their parents likely could hold the doctor liable. Compensation may cover past, present, and future medical costs, as well as the pain and suffering that the child endured.
Statutes of Limitations
Parents should act promptly if they suspect that medical malpractice caused harm to their child. State laws provide statutes of limitations that restrict the time for bringing a lawsuit. A claim brought after the statute of limitations has expired likely will be dismissed, even if it is substantively strong.