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Lawsuit filed after vacuum assisted birth results in disabilities

In September 2009 when an expectant mother went into labor, neither she nor her husband knew very much about vacuum extraction devices sometimes used during difficult labor. The labor went on for hours as the mother continued to push, at some point the doctor determined that the labor was not progressing. The mother expected that would keep pushing until her baby arrived. Instead the doctor called for the vacuum extraction device.

The infant was still preterm, he would be born five weeks early and weighed four pounds, three ounces when he was born. The baby suffered brain hemorrhaging which the parents assert is the result of the vacuum extraction procedure. According to their lawsuit the procedure should not have been used on their child because he was too premature, they claim that if the doctor was going to use an invasive procedure, it should have been a cesarean section. They hope that their lawsuit will alert other expectant parents about the potential risks of vacuum extraction.

The baby boy, now about a year and a half old is blind and has cerebral palsy. He will likely never walk on his own. As soon as the boy was born his parents feared something had gone wrong when he did not cry. The next day the hospital informed the parents that their child had suffered scattered brain hemorrhages.

Vacuum extraction procedures are generally used when the woman is fully dilated but the baby's head is still unable to pass through despite extended attempts. When the doctor determines that the mother or infant is at risk a vacuum extraction can sometimes be the route the doctor decides offers the best chance of ensuring the safety of the mother and the infant.

While controversy exists between experts about under what circumstances, if any, vacuum extraction can be used safely with pre-term infants. There is consensus that before such a measure is considered the parent should be fully informed of the risks.

Source: St. Petersburg Times "St. Petersburg parents sue Bayfront Medical Center over use of birthing device" March 14, 2011

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