Baltimore Birth Injury Lawyers Discuss Hypoglycemia in Newborns

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Neonatal hypoglycemia is marked by an unsafe drop in a baby’s blood glucose (blood sugar) level during the first few days of life. Glucose is a major source of energy for newborns. It is especially important for their brain, as up to 90% of a newborn’s glucose is consumed by the organ. Before birth, babies get glucose from the mother through the placenta. After birth, sources include breast milk or formula. Glucose is also produced in the baby’s liver.

Most babies are born with blood sugar levels far below what an adult or older child could tolerate, yet most do not experience any ill effects. For example, in an older child or adult, a blood glucose level below 60 mg/dl is considered low. However, it is common for babies just born to have levels as low as 30 mg/dl, which gradually increase to 54 to 72 mg/dl. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends treating babies for neonatal hypoglycemia if their blood glucose level is 47 mg/dl or below.

Neonatal hypoglycemia is the most common metabolic problem in newborns. Left untreated, it can have catastrophic long-term health effects. Severe or prolonged neonatal hypoglycemia has been linked to brain damage, cerebral palsy, recurrent seizures, learning disabilities, developmental delays, problems with eyesight and personality disorders. Some studies suggest it can also cause cardiovascular impairment or heart failure.

Risk Factors

  • Premature or late-term birth
  • Babies born unusually small or large for gestational age
  • Babies born with a serious infection or condition that required oxygen immediately after delivery
  • Babies born to diabetic mother  
  • Mother had chorioamnionitis or infection around the time of delivery
  • Babies born with endocrine disorders, such as low thyroid hormone production

Possible Signs and Symptoms

  • Bluish or pale skin
  • Irregular breathing, including pauses in breathing (apnea) and rapid breathing (tachypnea)
  • Irritability
  • Decreased muscle tone (hypotonia)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Trouble maintaining body temperature
  • Tremors, shakiness, sweating or seizures

Diagnosis and Treatment

Current standards do not require hospital staff to perform glucose tests on all newborns, and not all hypoglycemic babies present symptoms. However, if the baby is known to be at risk for hypoglycemia or shows any clinical signs, tests should be performed immediately. Failure to diagnose or a delayed diagnosis could have life-altering consequences, many of which may not become apparent until years later.

Blood glucose concentration levels are easy to determine, usually by gathering a small amount of blood from the infant’s heel. In some circumstances, a test strip can be used at the newborn’s bedside. Because this method is known to be less accurate than a blood test, it should always be followed up by a lab test of the baby’s glucose.

When a test confirms neonatal hypoglycemia, treatment needs to begin immediately. Generally, this includes giving the baby extra feedings of breast milk or formula. In some cases, the baby may be given an intravenous sugar solution. Monitoring and treatment should continue until the baby is able to maintain a normal glucose level on their own. This can take anywhere from a few hours to up to a week. In very rare cases, newborns with severe hypoglycemia that do not improve with treatment may need surgery to remove a part of the pancreas to reduce insulin production.

Maryland Birth Injury Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Hospital Negligence

If you believe that your baby may have suffered a traumatic injury caused by a failure to diagnose or improper monitoring of neonatal hypoglycemia, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. For more than 30 years, Maryland medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton have been fighting for victims of medical negligence and their families. Contact us online or call 800-547-4LAW (4529) today to schedule your free case review with one of our compassionate and highly skilled Maryland birth injury lawyers. A caring and knowledgeable member of our staff is available to answer your questions 24 hours a day.

Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie and Towson, allowing us to represent victims of medical malpractice and their families throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery 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.