Failure to Diagnose Spina Bifida

NJ Malpractice Lawyers Handling Misdiagnosis of Spina Bifida Claims

Representing New Jersey families in wrongful birth cases stemming from neural tube defects

When spina bifida is diagnosed prior to a birth, parents can decide whether or not to continue the pregnancy. Unfortunately, some medical providers fail to conduct the proper screening tests or give parents the proper counseling they need to plan. This can lead to a legal claim of wrongful birth against the medical providers.

Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP is a foremost authority on wrongful birth claims in New Jersey. We are fully aware of the pain, suffering, and costs associated with neural tube defects, and have successfully represented clients’ best interests for years. If your child was born with spina bifida, and you were denied access to important information about the risks or the development of the disease, call us. We may be able to help.

Spina bifida and neural tube defects

Neural tube defects (NTD) are birth defects which affect the spinal cord and brain. When a fetus is developing in utero, its neural tube – what will eventually become the brain and spinal cord – is one of the first body parts to form. There is no definitive cause for these defects, though research seems to indicate there is some inherited, genetic component, as well as some environmental factors. For example, the March of Dimes, which echoes multiple medical sources, says getting enough folic acid in (and before) the first month of your pregnancy can help prevent an NTD.

Of all the neural tube defects, the most common is spina bifida. There are four types of spina bifida, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Myelomeningocele, in which the spinal cord and its protective covering (the meninges) protrude from an opening in the spine. It can lead from moderate to severe disabilities.
  • Meningocele, in which the spinal cord develops normally but the meninges protrude from a spinal opening. It can lead to minor disabilities.
  • Closed, in which the meninges, or the fat and bone in the area are malformed. It can lead to no disabilities at all, or can cause incomplete paralysis, along with dysfunction of the bowels and urinary tract.
  • Occulta, in which one or more vertebrae are malformed and covered by a layer of skin. It usually leads to no disabilities, and some people do not realize they have the condition until adulthood.

Every neural tube defect develops within the first few weeks of a woman’s pregnancy. As such, women should be screened for the markers of these defects in the early stages of their pregnancy, especially if there is a family history of NTDs.

Complications associated with spina bifida diagnosis

Unlike other types of NTDs, where the brain may fail to fully develop (or fail to develop at all), spina bifida does not affect intelligence – but that does not mean the condition cannot cause severe mental impairment. Per the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “Spina bifida’s impact is determined by the size and location of the malformation, whether it covered, and which spinal nerves are involved. All nerves located below the malformation are affected to some degree. Therefore, the higher the malformation occurs on the back, the greater the amount of nerve damage and loss of muscle function and sensation.” The more severe the malformation, the more likely a child is to experience significant mental and physical disabilities.

Additional complications include:

  • Chiari II malformation, wherein the brain stem and cerebellum “protrude downward into the spinal canal or neck area,” leading to:
    • Spinal cord compression
    • Difficulties breathing
    • Difficulties swallowing
    • Upper arm stiffness or weakness
    • Choking and other feeding difficulties
  • Hydrocephalus, a “buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in and around the brain,” caused by a Chiari II malformation
  • Additional risk of developing meningitis, and infection of the meninges
  • Dermatological problems
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Loss of muscle function and mobility issues
  • Loss of bladder and bowel function and/or control
  • Neurological deterioration
  • Language difficulties
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Latex allergies
  • Chronic pain

Your right to make an informed decision about your future

During the second trimester of pregnancy, doctors should give pregnant mothers a blood test to screen for conditions such as Down syndrome, spina bifida, and other birth defects. This gives the mother time to decide whether she wants to proceed with the pregnancy. Failure to perform these tests can constitute an act of medical malpractice.

The state of New Jersey allows a woman to terminate a pregnancy up to 24 weeks after conception. However, for women to have this right, doctors need to:

  • Inform patients of their rights
  • Perform the screening tests
  • Provide screening results and counseling to mothers

If your health care providers failed to provide proper screening or counseling, you may be entitled to compensation for the significant medical expenses you will have following your child’s birth.

Filing a wrongful birth lawsuit in New Jersey

When you make a claim for wrongful birth, you are not saying you wish you didn’t have a child. We know you love your children. We also know that you have a right to be informed of all of your options, and that your doctors should be held accountable for their actions. A child with a neural tube defect like spina bifida myelomeningocele, or a closed NTD, will almost certainly need a lifetime of medical care, including surgical procedures, medications, medical devices, adaptive technologies (like wheelchairs or leg braces), or physical therapy. He or she may also require additional tutoring or educational services. On top of it all, your child may be living in chronic pain. While the condition itself isn’t terminal, as many other NTDs are, the complications can be.

A wrongful birth lawsuit may help you ensure that your child is protected for the rest of his or her life. It can ease the burden of exorbitant medical bills, while creating a path forward to help your child live with the best possible quality of life, now and in the future.

Speak with an NJ wrongful birth attorneys if your child with spina bifida was misdiagnosed

Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP is a premier medical malpractice law firm serving clients throughout the state. With offices in Edison, Red Bank, and Toms River, our New Jersey wrongful birth lawyers are available to you when you need honest advice and aggressive representation. If your child was born with spina bifida, we offer a free consultation to discuss your case. Please call 732-777-0100, or fill out our contact form.