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Misdiagnosis of Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a life-threatening hypertensive disorder that afflicts expectant mothers after the twentieth week of pregnancy. Failure to diagnose preeclampsia can result in permanent organ damage, maternal death, low birth weight, and stillbirth. A doctor who fails to detect the warning signs may be liable for substantial damages through a preeclampsia misdiagnosis lawsuit.

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Every doctor that provides prenatal care owes the mother and fetus a duty to provide a reasonable standard of care. Although preeclampsia cannot always be anticipated or prevented, a reasonable doctor should know the warning signs and when a pregnant woman is at a higher risk of developing it.

Preeclampsia is diagnosed in 8 percent of pregnancies and is responsible for 15 percent of premature births, according to the Cleveland Clinic. With an annual live birth rate of approximately 3.6 million, this calculates to 288,000 pregnant women in the United States who face preeclampsia yearly, in addition to the thousands of stillbirths and miscarriages caused by preeclampsia.

Our experienced birth injury lawyers at Levin & Perconti may be able to help you recover substantial compensation if you or your loved one has suffered harm because of a preeclampsia misdiagnosis.

What Is Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is high blood pressure with elevated protein levels in the urine, which occurs after the twentieth week of pregnancy and causes damage to the kidneys, liver, and other vital organs. It is known as early-onset preeclampsia if it develops before the 34th week of pregnancy. Preeclampsia generally resolves shortly after birth.

In rare instances, preeclampsia develops after childbirth. Postpartum preeclampsia usually develops within 48 hours of birth but can develop up to six weeks later, according to the May Clinic. Postpartum preeclampsia is just as serious as preeclampsia during pregnancy and requires immediate treatment.

Is Preeclampsia the Same Thing as Gestational Hypertension?

Like preeclampsia, gestational hypertension generally occurs after the twentieth week of pregnancy and disappears shortly after birth. But organ damage and high urinary protein levels do not occur in gestational hypertension. However, gestational hypertension can progress to preeclampsia.

If left untreated, gestational hypertension can adversely affect the placenta, interfering with its ability to absorb and deliver blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the baby. This can lead to low birth weight or premature birth. It may be necessary to induce labor or perform an emergency caesarian section if the condition cannot be controlled.

A prenatal care provider should have checked your blood pressure and asked about your symptoms every time you attended a prenatal visit. These simple steps could have ensured your doctor detected gestational hypertension or preeclampsia as early as possible.

Preeclampsia Symptoms and Warning Signs

Preeclampsia is often discovered during a routine prenatal checkup. The most important warning sign of preeclampsia is a blood pressure reading higher than 140/90. Other warning signs that may be detected in the doctor’s office are elevated urinary protein, a decreased platelet count, and increased liver enzymes.

Preeclampsia sometimes presents without symptoms, so a doctor’s diligence is crucial. When symptoms do occur, they may include the following:

  • Severe headaches
  • Temporary vision loss
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sudden excessive weight gain
  • New swelling of the face or hands

Your doctor may have brushed off some of these as typical pregnancy symptoms, but your doctor should have investigated further if they were new or unusual. When you hire one of our nationally recognized preeclampsia misdiagnosis lawyers, we will look for instances when your doctor should have investigated symptoms but failed to do so.

How Is Preeclampsia Treated?

The only cure for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby. If you reached 37 weeks of gestation before a preeclampsia diagnosis, a reasonable doctor should have recommended an early birth through induced labor or a C-section.

If you were diagnosed before reaching 37 weeks, treatment options varied based on the severity of your condition. If your case was less severe, outpatient monitoring with more frequent prenatal office visits may have been reasonable. Severe cases of preeclampsia require hospital admission.

If your case was severe before the 37-week mark and delivery couldn’t wait, your doctor could have provided corticosteroids to hasten fetal lung development for a safer preterm delivery. Blood pressure medication may also have been indicated.

During delivery, a reasonable doctor should administer intravenous magnesium sulfate to prevent preeclampsia from progressing to eclampsia.

The Potential Progression of Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a serious condition itself, but it can progress to even more serious conditions if undiagnosed or poorly controlled.

Eclampsia

Eclampsia is a seizure disorder that stems from preeclampsia, which can also manifest with the following complications:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Coma
  • Stroke
  • Death

Occasionally, eclampsia can develop without preeclampsia.

HELLP Syndrome

HELLP syndrome is a complication of preeclampsia that may occur when it is undiagnosed or poorly controlled. It is a dangerous condition that includes liver damage. HELLP is an acronym for the following:

  • Hemolysis – when red blood cells break down
  • Elevated Liver enzymes – an indication of liver damage
  • Low Platelets – reduced clotting cells

HELLP syndrome can present with similar symptoms to preeclampsia. It can lead to severe pain in the upper right abdomen, where the liver is located, while also causing the following:

  • Seizures
  • Organ damage
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Problems with the placenta
  • Premature birth

What Causes a Preeclampsia Misdiagnosis?

When you hire one of our award-winning misdiagnosis attorneys, one of the key questions we investigate is what caused the misdiagnosis. Uncovering this important answer is crucial in proving that the doctor could have diagnosed preeclampsia by exercising reasonable diligence.

A doctor may misdiagnose preeclampsia as a result of the following:

  • Brushing off preeclampsia warning signs as normal pregnancy symptoms
  • Failure to instruct you about symptoms that should be considered an emergency
  • Failure to implement an adequate prenatal care schedule
  • Failure to check blood pressure and protein in the urine during routine prenatal visits
  • Failure to interpret test results accurately
  • Failure to record and become familiar with your complete medical history, including any known risk factors for preeclampsia

What Are the Risk Factors for Preeclampsia?

If you had one or more of the known risk factors of preeclampsia and your doctor failed to diagnose it, this may be evidence of a failure to exercise reasonable care. Any patient with risk factors for preeclampsia should receive close monitoring.

In addition, the United States Preventive Services recommends women with a high risk of preeclampsia take low-dose aspirin, 81mg, beginning at 12 weeks of gestation as a preventive measure. If your doctor failed to prescribe this, it could support a case for medical negligence.

The risk factors for preeclampsia include the following:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Chronic high blood pressure before pregnancy
  • Kidney disease
  • Obesity
  • Age of 40 or older
  • Pregnancy with multiples
  • African-American heritage
  • Family history of preeclampsia
  • History of migraines
  • Pregnancy by in vitro fertilization, egg donation, or artificial insemination
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Sickle cell Disease
  • Chronic urinary tract infections
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Gum disease

Is Misdiagnosing Preeclampsia Medical Malpractice?

Misdiagnosis of preeclampsia may be medical malpractice if you can prove all of the following:

  1. You had an established patient relationship with the health care provider.
  2. The health care provider misdiagnosed preeclampsia due to a failure to provide a reasonable standard of care.
  3. You suffered a verifiable injury.
  4. The misdiagnosis is the proximate cause of your injury.

The reasonable standard of care is the level of care expected of a prudent health care provider with equivalent qualifications, given the information available at the time. A prudent provider follows established medical standards and does not deviate from them without good cause.

Can I Sue a Doctor for Misdiagnosing Preeclampsia?

You have the right to sue any health care provider that misdiagnoses your preeclampsia or contributes to the misdiagnosis. Any person or entity that employs the negligent provider can also be held liable. Liable parties in a preeclampsia misdiagnosis lawsuit may include the following:

  • Obstetricians
  • General practitioners
  • Physician assistants
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Midwives
  • Laboratory technicians
  • Hospitals
  • Birthing centers

How Can Levin & Perconti Help?

Our compassionate and skilled medical malpractice attorneys will identify the liable parties, gather evidence, and put our four decades of experience to work fighting for fair and reasonable damages for you.

We will refuse to settle for anything less than fair compensation. We will tap into our extensive network of leading medical experts and invest our own finances into proving your case with no upfront cost to you. If we don’t win, you owe us nothing.

Many major medical malpractice insurers know we are exceptional trial lawyers who win in court. This gives us leverage in settlement negotiations, which often enables us to settle cases with reasonable speed. But we will fearlessly take your case to court if that is what it takes to win you the compensation you deserve.

How Much Compensation Can I Recover in a Preeclampsia Misdiagnosis Lawsuit?

We have helped many clients recover millions of dollars in compensation for birth injuries caused by negligent prenatal care and birth errors. The amount you can recover will depend on the severity of the injuries and their financial impacts. Compensation in a preeclampsia misdiagnosis lawsuit may include the following economic and non-economic damages:

  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of society
  • Loss of bodily functions
  • The cost of attendant care

If you are the spouse, parent, or next-of-kin of someone who has passed away as a result of a preeclampsia misdiagnosis, whether mother or child, you may be eligible to recover damages the following damages through a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Pain and suffering of the family
  • Pain and suffering of the deceased
  • Projected lifetime income of the deceased
  • Burial costs
  • Medical expenses of the deceased
  • Loss of companionship

When Should I Contact a Preeclampsia Misdiagnosis Lawyer?

The Illinois medical malpractice statute of limitations is just two years from the date of the medical error or the date you discovered the error. This applies to injuries to the mother. You may have up to eight years to file a claim on behalf of the child. Determining how the statute of limitations applies to any case can be complex. Thus, it is important that you not wait to contact an attorney.

If you don’t file your case before the statute of limitations expires, you can lose your right to file a claim for compensation forever. Our dedicated attorneys are ready to go right to work on your case, but we need to hear from you as soon as possible.

Why Should I Trust Levin & Perconti with My Preeclampsia Misdiagnosis Case?

With more than 200 years of combined experience, our nationally acclaimed attorneys are pioneers in birth injury cases. Our knowledge of federal and state birth injury laws is unmatched, and our financial resources allow us to spend every dollar necessary to get you the compensation you deserve.

Our Dov Apfel is a nationally known advocate for children with neurological and intellectual disabilities, and he has more than 30 years of experience litigating these matters nationwide. He is the author of a landmark law review article that helped set the standard for how to handle birth injury cases across the United States. 

We have won some of the highest verdicts in the state for medical malpractice during pregnancy and childbirth, including the following:

  • $40 million verdict for a 19-year-old disabled teen suffered a brain injury at birth due to a delayed C-section.
  • $20 million verdict on behalf of a child who suffered preventable HIE and asphyxia injuries at birth, resulting in permanent cognitive and developmental impairments.
  • $14 million for the family of a child who suffered a brain injury from lack of oxygen during her birth after a hospital failed to respond promptly to fetal monitoring and arrange a timely C-section.
  • $9 million settlement to the family of a baby who suffered permanent brain damage after a doctor failed to test the mother for Group B Strep Meningitis during prenatal care.
  • $2.9 million settlement for a child who suffered mild brachial plexus injuries as a result of a doctor’s failure to properly address shoulder dystocia.

If you or your loved one has grounds for a preeclampsia misdiagnosis lawsuit, you need a lawyer with the experience, resources, and passion to fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact Levin & Perconti today for a free consultation.