Improper use of Vacuum Extraction During Delivery

Vacuum extractors are medical instruments that can be used to help apply traction to the fetal head to aid in its passage through the birth canal. A vacuum extractor is a vacuum machine with a cup shaped extension that fits (to varying degrees) on the fetal skull. Because they are used in the aid of delivering a baby, and associated with complicated deliveries- informed consent should be sought by the doctor from the woman in labor before delivery by vacuum extraction is attempted. Vacuum extraction is also associated with increased birth injuries to newborns. Vacuum extraction use is meant to be only for extreme situations, and used only by those experienced as to avoid injury to both the mother and baby. Informed consent means that the doctor has explained the procedure, the risks involved, other options (if available), and the patient has agreed to the procedure knowing the risks. Situations when vacuum extraction is considered as one of the few options available are:

  • Labor has stalled- pushing and contractions are not moving the fetus through the birth canal
  • Fetus is experiencing stress from the labor, pharmaceuticals given to the mother, etc- as indicated by monitoring of the fetal heart rate and/or pH of fetal serum.
  • Mother has aortic valve stenosis (heart condition) which limits the amount of physical exertion she can perform

Contraindications for vacuum extraction use, or situations when it should NOT be attempted:

  • The position of the fetus is not known
  • Fetus is less than 36 weeks of age
  • Forceps attempt at delivery has failed
  • Fetal skull deformity or edema is present
  • Suction cannot be achieved at correct place on the fetal head
  • Fetus is too large (fetal macrosomia)/ mother’s pelvis is too small for vaginal delivery
  • Baby has a condition that would make forceps delivery dangerous, such as bone density problem (skull plates would be too brittle and easily broken), or a bleeding disorder (such as hemophilia)
  • Doctor is inexperienced at this delivery method

Risks to baby when vacuum extraction is utilized in delivery are:

  • Brain damage
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Death
  • Eye trauma
  • Facial injuries
  • Facial palsy (damage to facial musculature)
  • Intracranial bleeding
  • Neck (cervical) fracture
  • Seizures
  • Scalp/skull injury (bruising, bleeding, fractures, edema)
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Subgaleal hemorrhage

Risks to mother when vacuum extraction is utilized in delivery:

  • Anemia due to blood loss
  • Bladder injuries/problems
  • Long term urinary, fecal incontinence
  • Short term urinary, fecal incontinence
  • Perineum injury/tears- with pain, scarring, possible infection, subsequent surgical repairs
  • Sexual problems with perineal injury
  • Uterine rupture (with possible future infertility)
  • Weakening/damage to musculature of urogenital region leading to pelvic organ prolapse and need for further medical intervention for treatment (sling surgeries with notorious fail rate)

Vacuum extraction is associated with complicated deliveries and an increased risk of injury to both mother and baby. If you or a loved one experienced injury or death due to the improper use of vacuum extraction during delivery, you may be entitled to monetary damages. Contact the experts at the Sweeney Law Firm and let us review the facts. You may have a medical malpractice case. If we take your case, we work on a contingency fee basis- meaning there is no fee for representation unless a settlement or recovery of fees is made on your behalf.