Severe Spinal Defect Missed — Family Recovers Significant Damages

A negligent ultrasound technologist (sonographer) and radiologist, working in Sault Ste. Marie, failed to detect a severe defect after a substandard ultrasound, causing a baby to be born with a debilitating open neural tube defect.

Mom, an Oshawa native, had an ultrasound at just over 10 weeks gestation. The role of a sonographer is to perform the study, identify both normal and abnormal findings, and document their observations. The sonographer completed a worksheet which indicated the placenta was posterior and that there was a cyst in the right adnexal region of the uterus. A radiologist confirmed these findings, advising a follow-up to check the placental location.

About a month later there was a second ultrasound, performed by another sonographer. By this point, Mom’s obstetrician had not discussed or offered her Maternal Serum Screen testing. The sonographer obtained several images of the fetus and completed a worksheet, “crossing off” that she had assessed some key parts of the body. Most of the spine pictures showed that the fetus was lying in the prone position, or on its stomach, which was the most desirable positionfor a sonographer to evaluate and obtain the necessary images of the fetal spine. The sonographer did not capture images of the spine, parts of the brain and the umbilical cord. The images were also substandard, having been taken at the incorrect angle with no annotations. The images were again reviewed by a radiologist, who also found no abnormalities present except a low placenta, and confirmed the cyst found in the first examination.

When Mom was induced with Syntocinon, there was initially good progress. However, 90 minutes into the second stage of labour, the doctor decided to perform a Caesarean section because he saw meconium and suspected cephalopelvic disproportion. After birth, it was noted for the first time that the baby had exposure of the spinal cord and spinal nerves. This large Spina Bifida should have been detected in the ultrasounds. Had this open neural tube defect been diagnosed antenatally, Mom would have been given the option of scheduling an elective Caesarean section at a centre where her baby’s open neural tube defect could have been managed immediately on delivery.

As a result of the negligence, the baby suffers from spina bifida and requires constant medical treatment. He is dependent for the majority of his care and requires a wheelchair for mobility.

Sommers Roth & Elmaleh Professional Corporation has over 40 years of experience in medical malpractice litigation in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Ontario, and across Canada.

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The above information is not legal advice. Past results of cases and recoveries by our medical malpractice lawyers against hospitals, doctors, midwives, nurses and other healthcare professionals are not necessarily indicative of future results. The amounts recovered and other litigation outcomes will vary according to the facts in individual cases.