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Newborn's undiagnosed congenital heart defect results in tragedy

A vitamin a day may not actually keep the doctor away, but there is benefit to certain preventative practices, such as screening tests. Unfortunately, patients may not realize that they may be at risk for certain conditions, and a doctor’s failure to advise a patient about recommended tests may allow conditions to go undiagnosed -- until it is too late. In such cases, an injured patient or surviving loved one may need to talk with a medical malpractice attorney about holding doctors accountable for their potentially negligent care.

This outcome recently happened to a new mother. The woman believed that her infant was happy and health until the newborn started having symptoms in the sixth week that included vomiting, difficulty nursing and signs of pain. The woman’s pediatrician thought that the newborn might be having reflux. However, a few days later, the newborn stopped breathing during an evening nap. The woman was told that the newborn had died of a critical congenital heart defect.

The tragedy here is that the misdiagnosis might have been avoided if the newborn had received a simple pulse oximeter test, which can screen for heart defects. In fact, one pediatric cardiologist claims that early detection of congenital heart disease in newborns -- within the first few weeks or months -- can allow doctors to save 98 to 100 percent of cases.

Notably, the screening test is also quick, easy and affordable. A device that can measure oxygen saturation in the blood is clipped to a patient’s hand or foo. The American Heart Association states that the pulse oximeter test can be done in under a minute. A hospital-grade model of the sensory device sells for around $200.

Source: Washington Post, “Saving babies: An inexpensive, easy oxygen test can prevent many deaths,” Susan Berger,“ April 7, 2014

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