Preeclampsia (also written as pre-eclampsia) is defined as a condition of high blood pressure during pregnancy and in the first six weeks after delivery. The high blood pressure is accompanied by increased protein in the urine. Preeclampsia (or toxemia), is dangerous to both mother and child and requires immediate treatment to prevent it from worsening into eclampsia.
There is no effective treatment for preeclampsia other than the delivery of the child. But there are viable medical malpractice claims for preeclampsia for failure to properly manage the condition.
If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered from preeclampsia that should have been caught and treated by a physician, and injuries or death resulted, please speak with a lawyer for advice. You can call us at 800-553-8082 or click here to discuss your case confidentially on-line.An Overview of Preeclampsia
Preeclampsia can occur anytime after Week 20 of a woman's pregnancy (although if it is diagnosed before Week 32, it is called early onset and the morbidity risk increases) is characterized by high blood pressure and high protein in the urine. Preeclampsia can be mild or severe; one in 200 progress into eclampsia.
Preeclampsia occurs in approximately three to seven percent of all pregnancies. Mild pre-eclampsia is diagnosed if the mother's blood pressure is over 140/90 but under 160/110. Protein in the urine may or may not be accompanied by swelling in the hands, feet, and ankles.
Severe preeclampsia is diagnosed when the mother's blood pressure is over 160/110, there is significant amounts of protein in the urine, and the woman also experiences abdominal pain, decreased growth of the fetus, severe headache, or visual problems. Increasing blood pressure eventually leads to seizures, retinal detachment, cerebral hemorrhage, ruptured liver, abruptio placentae (where the placenta detaches from the uterine wall), and death.
Signs visible or detectable symptoms of preeclampsia are swelling, especially in the hands and face; sudden weight gain; blurry vision; nausea; a headache; lower back pain; and upper abdominal pain. High blood pressure should be discovered during routine care examinations during the woman's pregnancy. Special urine test strips detect the presence of protein. These tests are usually done at each doctor visit during pregnancy. (Keep in mind some women never suffer any symptoms of preeclampsia, which is why it is so important that blood pressure tests and urine protein tests are done on a regular basis.)Causes and Risk Factors for Preeclampsia
There are several known risk factors for preeclampsia that good doctors need to bear in mind. Those who are at risk include women who are over 40 (and, oddly, under 20), women who have had previous pregnancies with preeclampsia or ecclampsia, black women, overweight women, and women who live in the southeastern United States. (Bizarrely, smoking is associated with a decreased risk of preeclampsia although this is probably because it can mask symptoms.)
The causes of preeclampsia or eclampsia are poorly understood. This disorder usually occurs late in a pregnancy and is associated with kidney and metabolic abnormalities. This condition poses risks to both the mother and child. It can quickly result in neurologic complications such as seizures and death.
Doctors and midwives should take preeclampsia very seriously. Even in mild cases, care must be taken that it does not progress, and usually, the woman requires bed rest at the very least. A woman with anything but the mildest of cases should be immediately admitted to hospital for observation. Some patients require magnesium sulfate injections to lower the possibility of seizures. If the baby is large enough, and the woman's condition is stable, then labor can be stimulated through the use of drugs or a caesarean section will be performed.
Ultimately, the only way to solve preeclampsia is for the mother to give birth. But you have to balance this against the risks to the child if the birth would be premature. In that case, preeclampsia may be best treated by treating the symptoms with rest and whatever else while you wait until the fetus can survive and thrive outside of the womb.
A doctor or midwife who either fails to notice a woman has developed preeclampsia or fails to act quickly to treat toxemia may be responsible for any injury or death that results. The key word is "may." Every case is different. But there is no question that the doctor may be responsible for the harm done to the child or the mother if this condition was not correctly diagnosed and treated.Classic Preeclampsia Malpractice Cases
Here are some example fact patterns that have led to plaintiffs' verdicts in preeclampsia malpractice claims:Example #1
Plaintiff goes to ER 28 weeks pregnant with ambiguous symptoms: cramping, headache, nausea, vomiting, and ear ringing. She had a history of high blood pressure. After a long wait in the ER, she was seen by an ER doctor who checked her blood pressure, noted it was high, but heard the fetal heartbeat. He diagnosed otitis media and discharged her.
She returned, clearly in distress, that same night and was again sent home with a new diagnosis: a urinary tract infection.
She came back again with blood pressure through the roof: 174/121. There were no fetal heart tones. She delivered a stillborn baby boy.
Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit claiming what you would expect: the preeclampsia should have been caught and treated sooner.
The case settled against one of the doctors, and the jury awarded $650,000 in damages against the other doctor.Example #2
A woman in the 7th month of her pregnancy noticed a rise in blood pressure, weight gain, and edema, all symptoms that could be many things but could also be preeclampsia. They told her to come back in a week. She then presented to emergency room with headaches. She delivered - thankfully - a healthy child - but the mother died a day later of a brain hemorrhage that everyone agreed at trial was caused by preeclampsia.
Plaintiffs' wrongful death lawsuit alleged that the OB/GYN failed to diagnose and treat preeclampsia. The jury awarded $2.75 million.Finding the Right Medical Malpractice Lawyer for You and Your Child
If your child, or the mother, has suffered an injury, call us. We are here to help you with your case and to guide you through this nightmare. Call 800-553-8082 or get a free no-obligation medical misdiagnosis consultation.Sample Verdicts and Settlements in Preeclampsia Cases
These verdicts and settlements may be helpful to you in understand the average range of these cases when the plaintiff is successful. Keep in mind that these malpractice case results are not necessarily representative of your case. Why? Because every medical malpractice case is different and past results are no guarantee of a favorable outcome in a future case, even when the facts may seem identical. Juries are different. Sometimes the details of the events can be very different in two cases that are seemingly the same from reading these short summaries.
People are also sometimes looking for the average preeclampsia settlement or verdict in these birth injury cases. That figure it not out there. But if someone did compute that number, it would be mostly useless because these cases are just so different. The biggest factors are going to be how reliable the negligence case is against the doctor or hospital and how severe the injuries to the child are.