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Radiology Malpractice: When an Ultrasound Is Misread

Errors with ultrasounds can lead to undiagnosed abnormalities in developing fetuses and the failure to diagnose an array of problems that might occur during pregnancy.

Ultrasound During Pregnancy

Medical professionals and hospitals routinely perform ultrasounds on pregnant women. It’s a common procedure used to monitor a baby’s health condition and detect abnormalities in a developing fetus. An ultrasound, also known as a sonogram, uses sound waves to produce a picture of the baby in the womb. Obstetricians use ultrasound procedures throughout a pregnancy to provide prenatal care and gain important information about the baby prior to delivery such as:

  • Determining a due date
  • Determining the sex of the baby
  • Predicting the baby’s size
  • Detecting a fetal heartbeat
  • Detecting birth defects
  • Diagnosing a miscarriage

Ultrasound testing during pregnancy provides clear images of a baby’s growth and development and alerts a physician to possible problems with the mother and/or the baby. Although considered completely safe by the medical profession, ultrasound does not always show accurate results. Accuracy of an ultrasound test may be affected by certain factors such as the stage of the pregnancy; the position of the baby in the womb; the quality of the ultrasound equipment; and the skill of the technician performing the test.

Most routine ultrasound procedures are performed during the second trimester of pregnancy, typically between 16 and 20 weeks. However, a physician may perform them earlier if he/she suspects problems with the mother or the baby. The obstetrician (OB-GYN) who is treating the mother during pregnancy is responsible for ordering ultrasound procedures during pregnancy.

Ultrasound Errors

Ultrasound procedures during pregnancy are considered safe, but errors can and do occur in some cases. However, most errors are linked to mistakes made on the part of the technician or physician who is performing the ultrasound procedure and reading the results. A Chicago birth injury attorney often sees radiology medical malpractice claims linked to medical negligence caused by ultrasound errors. Common causes of errors include:

  • Lack of proper training by a technician
  • Damaged or defective ultrasound equipment
  • Poor or distorted images
  • Misinterpretation of ultrasound results
  • Misdiagnosis of fetal health conditions
  • Failure to order further testing to confirm results

When ultrasound procedures are done properly, they help to ensure a healthy childbirth and prevent birth injuries. When ultrasound errors occur, they can result in a variety of health problems for the mother and serious birth injuries for the baby. Birth injuries linked to ultrasound medical errors include cognitive disorders; seizures; brain damage; physical deformities; cerebral palsy, and long-term or permanent disabilities. Unfortunately, a Chicago birth injury attorney sees serious birth injuries that create life-long problems.

In a recent Cook County medical malpractice case, Goldberg & Schulkin Law Offices obtained a $ 3.25 million result on behalf of an injured baby, and $ 1.25 million for the baby’s mother who was also injured during the delivery, when a sonographer and a radiologist did not properly interpret US imaging to determine the baby’s estimated fetal weight before allowing the delivering doctors to proceed with a vaginal delivery. If the imaging had been properly interpreted, the physicians would have known the baby was too large to safely attempt vaginal delivery. As a result of the negligent actions, during the delivery the baby got stuck on the mother’s pelvis, and suffered severe and permanent injuries to the nerves in her right upper extremity. The child’s and mother’s permanent injuries could have been prevented by a cesarean section (C-section), but the medical staff failed to act based on improperly interpreted ultrasound results.

Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Medical malpractice lawsuits against obstetricians, neonatologists, and pediatricians make up a high percentage of claims for birth injuries. Medical professionals have a duty to provide responsible, ethical care to their patients to prevent physical and/or mental harm. This includes adult patients, as well as newborns and children. If a physician does not perform his/her duty of care, and the patient suffers injuries as a result, the patient can file a medical malpractice lawsuit with a Chicago birth injury attorney against the physician.

If a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed, proof of negligent or reckless actions on the part of the medical professional must be proven in court. To successfully win a medical malpractice case, the party who files the lawsuit (the plaintiff) must successfully prove four facts. The plaintiff must prove the following against the medical professional (the defendant): (1) the defendant had a duty of care towards the patient; (2) the defendant breached that duty of care; (3) the breach of duty caused the plaintiff’s injuries: (4) injuries sustained resulted in damages. In all medical malpractice lawsuits, the plaintiff always has the burden of proof.

Illinois has a statute of limitations that specifically applies to medical malpractice cases. According to Illinois law, a medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed in the Illinois court system within two years of the date the injury occurred, the date that the plaintiff actually discovered the injury, or the date that the plaintiff should have known about the injury through reasonable diligence. A Chicago birth injury attorney can provide the necessary documentation for proper legal representation in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

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