Newborn Hypoglycemia Overview May 28, 2013.

Newborn hypoglycemia is a condition in which a baby has low glucose levels. This can be dangerous to his or her health, since the brain depends on glucose. If a doctor failed to address this condition and caused further complications, contact our birth injury lawyers today for a free consultation, or request our free, easy-to-read guide to filing a claim in Ohio.

What Causes Newborn Hypoglycemia?

There can be a variety of causes for low glucose levels. One occurs when insulin increases and absorbs glucose from the blood.

Glucose is produced in the liver, but babies also get it through formula or breast milk. If a newborn uses more glucose than is available or does not produce enough, this could lead to hypoglycemia.

Birth asphyxia may also be a factor, if the newborn’s oxygen supply has been deprived. Low maternal blood pressure, compression of the umbilical cord, placental abruption (in which placenta prematurely separates from the uterine wall) and other conditions may all lead to a lack of oxygen.

Hypoglycemia Risk Factors

Risk factors for low glucose levels in newborns include:

  • maternal diabetes;
  • genetic disorders;
  • smaller than normal size for gestational age;
  • premature birth;
  • sepsis (blood infection);
  • intrauterine growth restriction (poor growth in womb); and
  • hypothyroidism (low thyroid levels).

These risk factors should prompt special attention. If the baby’s glucose levels are low, they should be checked frequently.

Testing for newborn hypoglycemia can include a heel stick (during which the foot is pricked and drops of blood are collected) and urine tests. It may also be conducted via umbilical catheter, in which case a tube is inserted into the umbilical cord. The newborn may also be tested for metabolic disorders.

Doctors who fail to address symptoms, monitor glucose levels, or conduct appropriate tests may be held liable for malpractice.

Hypoglycemia Symptoms

Though hypoglycemia symptoms aren’t always present, it is routine for a newborn’s blood sugar levels to be checked. So even if low glucose levels aren’t evident, tests would indicate that there’s a problem.

That being said, a newborn with low blood sugar levels may exhibit:

  • floppy/loose muscles;
  • pale or bluish skin;
  • difficulty feeding;
  • listlessness or lethargy;
  • low body temperature;
  • tremors/shaking;
  • irritability;
  • rapid breathing or pausing between breaths; and
  • seizures.

Failing to provide, delaying, or stopping treatment could cause complications, such as impaired mental function due to brain damage, heart failure, or seizures.

Can Medical Malpractice Cause Newborn Hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia itself usually cannot be prevented, but it is critical that it be diagnosed and addressed in a timely manner. A doctor may be held liable for negligence if he or she fails to diagnose or recognize obvious symptoms.

A doctor can also be held accountable if the condition wasn’t treated properly. Since the brain depends on blood sugar (glucose), levels need to be increased until they return to normal. This can be done via extra feedings or a sugar solution administered through an IV. If conventional treatments don’t work, medication may be given. In severe cases, part of the pancreas may be removed in order to reduce insulin production.

Treatment could continue for hours, days, or longer. Ceasing treatment too soon could cause the levels to drop again, which may constitute medical malpractice if the newborn suffers brain injury or other serious complications.

Can I File a Claim?

Birth injury lawyer Chris Mellino welcomes you to contact our Cleveland office with any questions you may have about hypoglycemia complications. You may also download or request Chris’ free, easy-to-read guide to filing a claim in Ohio. Low glucose levels usually can’t be prevented, but if risk factors were overlooked, tests weren’t conducted, or a doctor failed to provide treatment, parents may be able to pursue compensation for medical expenses and other damages.