Understanding the Risks of Delayed Diagnosis of Congenital Syphilis

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In the landscape of neonatal health, certain threats lurk silently, often unnoticed until they cause irreversible harm. One such peril is congenital syphilis, a condition that, despite its preventability and treatability, continues to affect newborns worldwide. The crux of the matter lies not just in the disease itself, but in the delays in diagnosing it. This article aims to shed light on the risks associated with such delays and the crucial role of medical malpractice lawyers in navigating these turbulent waters.

Understanding Congenital Syphilis

Congenital syphilis is an infection transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy or at birth. Caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum, it can lead to severe, life-altering conditions, or even death, if not diagnosed and treated early. Symptoms in newborns can be subtle or non-existent initially, making early detection through prenatal screening vital.

Prevalence of Newborn Syphilis

At a time when birth-related infections like HIV and hepatitis B are becoming less common in the United States, the number of babies born with syphilis is on the rise. From 2012 to 2021, cases of congenital syphilis (which babies can get from their mothers) jumped by 755%, from 335 cases in 2012 to 2,865 in 2021.

Risks of Delayed Diagnosis

The consequences of a delayed diagnosis are dire. Syphilis can cause serious problems like stillbirth, miscarriage, or death soon after birth. Babies who survive but don’t get the right treatment might end up with blindness, hearing loss, learning delays, or bone issues. These risks underscore the importance of prompt diagnosis and treatment.  The good news is, congenital syphilis can be prevented if pregnant women are tested and treated for syphilis in time.

The Role of Healthcare Providers

Healthcare providers are the first line of defense against congenital syphilis. Standard medical practice mandates regular screening of pregnant women for syphilis and immediate treatment if necessary.

Testing for congenital syphilis primarily involves screening the pregnant mother for syphilis, as the infection is transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth. Here’s how it typically works:

  1. Prenatal Screening for Syphilis in the Mother:
    • Initial Screening: Pregnant women are usually tested for syphilis at their first prenatal visit. This is done through a blood test that looks for antibodies to the syphilis bacteria (Treponema pallidum).
    • Follow-up Screening: Women at higher risk of syphilis may undergo additional testing during the third trimester and at delivery. Risk factors include living in areas with high rates of syphilis, history of sexually transmitted infections, or having multiple sexual partners.
  2. Testing Newborns for Congenital Syphilis:
    • Physical Examination: Infants born to mothers with syphilis are examined for signs of congenital syphilis, which can include rash, enlarged liver and spleen, jaundice, anemia, and other symptoms.
    • Blood Tests: Blood tests are performed on the newborn to detect antibodies against syphilis. These tests can determine if the baby has been infected.
    • Other Tests: In some cases, additional tests like spinal fluid analysis, X-rays, or other imaging studies may be conducted to assess the extent of infection or organ damage.
  3. Follow-up and Treatment:
    • Treatment for Infected Infants: Babies diagnosed with congenital syphilis are treated with antibiotics, typically penicillin.
    • Monitoring: Infants who test positive for syphilis or who have signs of the disease need regular follow-up to ensure the treatment is effective and to monitor for any long-term complications.

Lapses in these protocols can lead to missed or delayed diagnoses, with catastrophic consequences for the newborn.

Medical Malpractice and Legal Recourse

When healthcare providers fail to diagnose congenital syphilis in time, it may constitute medical malpractice. A medical malpractice lawyer like the attorneys at Lupetin & Unatin, can help families navigate the legal landscape. We assist in proving that the healthcare provider’s negligence directly resulted in harm to the child, a complex process requiring thorough knowledge of both medical and legal fields.

Prevention and Awareness

Preventing congenital syphilis begins with awareness. Expectant mothers should undergo regular screenings and seek immediate medical attention for any concerns. Healthcare systems must also prioritize best practices to prevent negligence. Awareness campaigns can play a significant role in educating the public about the importance of prenatal care.

If you followed doctor’s orders and complied with all of your prenatal care and your baby was still born with and injured by syphilis, you should speak with an attorney as medical negligence may have played a role in the outcome.

How Lupetin & Unatin Can Help

At Lupetin & Unatin, we understand the profound impact that a delayed diagnosis or treatment of congenital syphilis can have on a child and their family. When medical professionals fail to detect or treat this serious condition in a timely manner, the consequences can be devastating, leading to long-term health problems or even disability.

Our experienced team of medical malpractice lawyers is dedicated to supporting families facing such challenging circumstances. We believe in holding healthcare providers accountable for their actions and ensuring that affected children receive the compensation they deserve. This compensation can cover medical expenses, ongoing care needs, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from the negligence.

With our deep knowledge of medical malpractice law and a compassionate approach to each case, we work tirelessly to investigate the circumstances surrounding the delayed diagnosis or treatment. Our goal is to build a strong case that accurately represents the impact on your child’s life and secures a fair and just outcome.

If your child has been affected by a delayed diagnosis or improper treatment of congenital syphilis, let Lupetin & Unatin stand by your side. Contact us for a consultation, and let us help you navigate this difficult journey with expertise, dedication, and empathy.

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