Neonatal Hypoglycemia at Risk of Long-Term Effects
Neonatal hypoglycemia can lead to brain damage and life-long development issues
Neonatal hypoglycemia (or low blood sugar) is a common metabolic condition in infants. It occurs when glucose (blood sugar) levels drop below normal, which typically happens a few days after birth. Glucose provides much needed energy to all organs in the body, particularly the brain. When glucose levels are insufficient, the brain is the first organ effected, which causes brain damage as brain cells start to die. As a result, there may be permanent effects such as developmental delays, learning disabilities, seizure disorders, vision issues and even heart failure.
Hypoglycemia in infants is typically caused by too much insulin, not enough glycogen (form of glucose stored in the body) or glucose produced by the body, body using more glucose than it can produce or nutrition taken into the body is inadequate to maintain healthy glucose levels.
Preventing Neonatal Hypoglycemia
Neonatal hypoglycemia and related long-term effects can be easily prevented and treated when discovered early on. In order to do so, pediatricians and nurses must carefully monitor the blood glucose levels of newborns. Risk factors should also be identified and those infants should be monitored more closely. Some medical conditions that may make low blood sugar more likely include infants,
- born prematurely, with a low birth weight, or growth restricted while in utero
- born large for the gestational age
- born with a serious infection (like sepsis)
- born to a diabetic mother or mother treated with certain drugs
- born hypoxic or who need oxygen soon after birth
- born with a low thyroid condition (hypothyroidism)
- born under significant stress
If any of these risk factors are present, medical staff should be trained to monitor blood sugar levels. If infants are not monitored and left untreated, glucose levels can get too low and brain damage can be the result. In addition, pediatricians and nurse staff are responsible to ensure newborns are getting adequate nutrition and being fed properly. This can mean breast milk or formula; whatever means will provide the necessary nutrition.
If low blood sugar levels are missed and adequate nutrition needs are not met, an infant could develop hypoglycemia. In some cases, there may be no signs or symptoms of a problem. In others, symptoms may emerge such as poor feeding, shaking, sweating, bluish skin tone, fatigue, vomiting, grunting, tremors, seizures, rapid or difficulty breathing, decreased muscle tone and difficultly regulating body temperature. Babies with any signs of hypoglycemia or who are considered at risk should receive immediate blood tests and treatment to try to prevent permanent injury.
Who Is Liable for Injuries?
For babies at risk for neonatal hypoglycemia, the first step should be prevention. It is easy to test for this condition and early diagnosis is imperative to prevent serious and long-lasting brain damage and other life altering conditions. If your infant’s hypoglycemia was misdiagnosed or left untreated and brain injury occurred, it may be the result of negligence. In addition, of your infant had any risk factors or symptoms and was not tested or not treated properly, that may also be negligence. If the negligent actions of medical staff, doctors or nurses caused or contributed to your newborn’s injuries, medical malpractice may have occurred.
If you believe that your child has suffered neonatal hypoglycemia as the result of your doctor or nurses negligent actions, contact an attorney at Lanicone & Lanicone, LLC. Our attorneys are experienced in all types of birth injury matters and can discuss your situation, answer your questions and help you hold the responsible party liable for your child’s injuries.