Can I File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for an Ectopic Pregnancy Misdiagnosis?March 8, 2021
Most pregnancies progress without any major complications or health risks. If complications do arise, the health care provider will likely run a series of tests and recommend the best course of treatment. Oftentimes, thanks to the innovations in medical technology and the advances in prenatal care, the health complication can be treated, and the remainder of the pregnancy progresses without any additional complications. Unfortunately, not all pregnancies are without problems. In fact, some pregnancy-related problems can be quite serious and may even endanger the life of the mother and the unborn baby.
An ectopic pregnancy is one example of a pregnancy complication that can cause serious health issues if it is not properly treated. If the doctor responsible for providing the prenatal care misdiagnosed the ectopic pregnancy, which resulted in a serious injury or fatality, the expectant mother may pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit. In these situations, reaching out to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer is advised.
What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?
During a normal pregnancy, the fertilized egg travels through the fallopian tube and attaches to the wall of the uterus, where it develops and grows until the baby is ready to be born. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus. Instead, it attaches to the fallopian tube, abdominal cavity, the cervix, or even on a cesarean section scar. The most common ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tube. These are also called tubal pregnancies. Unfortunately, an ectopic pregnancy cannot continue to grow outside of the uterus, and there is no way to move the embryo to the uterus. Ultimately, there is no treatment or cure for an ectopic pregnancy, and the implanted egg cannot survive.
Approximately one out of every 50 pregnancies are ectopic. Symptoms include abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding, fainting, low back pain, mild cramping on one side of the pelvis, and shock, but every woman’s symptoms are unique. If the expectant mother shows any of these symptoms, the doctor will likely perform an ultrasound, which will identify an ectopic pregnancy. It is crucial that an ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed early so that the pregnancy can be terminated, either by surgery or with medication. This can be devastating for the expectant parents. However, in addition to the tragic loss of their unborn child, ectopic pregnancies can cause serious health complications to the mother if the condition is misdiagnosed or is not diagnosed soon enough.
What Causes an Ectopic Pregnancy?
Although the exact cause of an ectopic pregnancy is not clear, most ectopic pregnancies are caused by a condition that slows or blocks the egg’s ability to move through the fallopian tube and into the uterus. There are certain risk factors that can cause a woman to be a greater risk for an ectopic pregnancy, including the following:
- Previous ectopic pregnancy: If a woman has had an ectopic pregnancy in the past, the risk of having another one increases by up to 10 percent.
- History of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is an infection that causes scar tissue to form in the fallopian tubes, the uterus, the ovaries, and the cervix.
- Surgery on the fallopian tubes or on other organs in the pelvic area.
- Endometriosis, an often painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus, the endometrium, grows outside the uterus.
- History of smoking.
- History of infidelity.
- An intrauterine device (IUD) was in place at the time of conception.
- Treatment for infertility with in vitro fertilization.
- Sexually transmitted infection (STI).
- Age: Although women of any age can have an ectopic pregnancy, women over the age of 35 are at an increased risk.
How are Ectopic Pregnancies Diagnosed?
If the woman is experiencing any symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, the doctor will perform a number of tests to confirm the pregnancy and determine whether the pregnancy is ectopic. The following are examples of tests that a health care provider may perform:
- Urine test: The patient will urinate on a stick or into a cup at the doctor’s office. A test strip is dipped into the urine sample. This will confirm a pregnancy.
- Blood test: This tests the levels of hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in the blood. This is the hormone that the body produces during pregnancy, so this is another test that doctors perform to confirm that the woman is pregnant. It can also help diagnose problems during the early stages of pregnancy.
- Ultrasound examination: This test uses sound waves to create an image of the body’s internal structures. This will allow doctors to see where the fertilized egg has implanted, which will confirm an ectopic pregnancy.
What are the Dangers of a Misdiagnosed Ectopic Pregnancy?
If a health care provider misdiagnoses an ectopic pregnancy or fails to provide the recommended treatment, resulting in serious health complications, this may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. One of the most common and dangerous consequences of a misdiagnosed ectopic pregnancy is a ruptured fallopian tube. In addition to the pain and trauma associated with a ruptured fallopian tube, the woman can suffer severe blood loss. In addition, there is an increased risk of developing a serious infection. If the rupture is not identified or treated soon enough, it can be fatal.
Another potential complication associated with a misdiagnosed ectopic pregnancy is that it can lead to a need for surgery. Although the surgical procedure itself is generally fairly routine, there are always risks associated with surgical procedures. In addition, surgery becomes an option only when the ectopic pregnancy was not properly diagnosed or there was a delayed diagnosis. There are much safer and less invasive treatment options for an ectopic pregnancy, including medication. When surgery is required to treat a ruptured fallopian tube, it can result in the following health risks:
- Patient is left with a sizable scar.
- If the fallopian tube is removed, it will affect the woman’s ability to conceive in the future. As a result, she may have to consider costly in vitro fertilization treatments or other options to have a child.
- If the wrong fallopian tube is removed, it could render the patient infertile.
- Surgery is much more invasive and requires a lengthy recovery period. The missed days of work will result in lost wages.
One of the recommended treatment options for an ectopic pregnancy is methotrexate. This medication causes the body to reabsorb an early-stage ectopic pregnancy. It is the most effective way to medically manage an ectopic pregnancy while also preserving fertility for future pregnancies. If a health care provider misdiagnoses an ectopic pregnancy and prescribes methotrexate to a woman whose pregnancy is normal and healthy, it can cause the woman to miscarry. If the medication does not terminate the pregnancy, it can cause serious birth defects, including neural tube defects, abnormal skull development, and missing bones in the arms and feet. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, evidence suggests that the number of women with intrauterine pregnancies who have been prescribed methotrexate is far from rare, and that more stringent criteria for diagnosis and nonviability need to be adopted to prevent false-positive test results.
The following are additional examples of scenarios in which the health care professional may be liable for health complications resulting from an ectopic pregnancy diagnosis error:
- The doctor fails to recognize the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy and does not provide the necessary treatment.
- During a routine scan performed in the early stage of a woman’s pregnancy, the doctor does not find the fetus in the uterus but fails to order additional tests that would confirm an ectopic pregnancy.
- The doctor diagnoses an ectopic pregnancy but delays treatment, which results in serious health complications.
- The ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed early in the pregnancy, but the doctor prescribes the wrong medication or the incorrect dose.
- The doctor is negligent during the surgical procedure to terminate the ectopic pregnancy.
How Do I Prove an Ectopic Pregnancy Misdiagnosis?
If a patient suffered a serious injury as a result of a misdiagnosed ectopic pregnancy, she may be able to file a medical malpractice claim against the health care provider responsible for her care. To reach a successful outcome, the patient will need to prove the following:
- The health care provider failed to diagnose the ectopic pregnancy, despite the fact that the patient experienced symptoms that are consistent with an ectopic pregnancy.
- The health care provider failed to order any tests in response to the symptoms.
- Even after an ultrasound revealed no fetus growing in the uterus, the health care provider failed to order further tests.
- The health care provider diagnosed the ectopic pregnancy but did not provide the necessary treatment.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Ectopic Pregnancy Misdiagnosis
If you suffered a serious health complication as a result of an ectopic pregnancy misdiagnosis, it is in your best interest to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We understand how devastating an ectopic pregnancy can be, particularly if a misdiagnosis led to serious complications. We will conduct a thorough investigation into the details of the case, address all your questions and concerns, and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve. We will not stop fighting for you until justice has been served. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.