Vacuum Extraction Injuries - Medical Negligence Solicitors - Compensation Claims


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Vacuum Extraction Injuries

Vacuum extraction involves a medical procedure performed during difficult childbirths. During the procedure, a soft silicone cup is applied to the fetal scalp. Then vacuum is applied to the cup so it adheres to the scalp. When the suction is high enough, the practitioner pulls on the handle of the pump, pulling the fetal head down as much as possible—perhaps enough to allow the woman to complete the delivery on her own. It is performed during the second stage of labor under circumstances when the mother can manage the pushing on her own or when an imminent delivery is necessary.

There are possible risks to both the mother and the fetus during a vacuum extraction. If the procedure fails, then a cesarean section is usually necessary. For a vacuum extraction to be necessary, the following criteria need to be met:

  • Your cervix must be completely dilated
  • Your membranes must have dilated
  • Your baby must be head first and well descended into the birth canal
  • You’re not able to push the baby out on your own
  • You are in a hospital or certified birthing centre

Your obstetrician may recommend doing a vacuum extraction during the following situations:

  • The woman is pushing hard but the labor is not progressing. If you have given birth before and have been pushing for 1-2 hours without delivery or if you haven’t had a delivery before and you have been pushing for 2-3 hours, this is considered nonprogression of labour.
  • There is a nonreassuring heart beat with a heart rate that is too slow or two fast. These can indicate problems that need an urgent delivery.
  • You have a health problem that precludes a long period of pushing, such as aortic valvular stenosis, so that the heart condition means you need a short period of pushing.
  • Your baby is stuck and you want to do the last possible option before going to caesarean section.

Your obstetrician may advise that you not have a vacuum extraction under the following circumstances:

  • You are less than thirty four weeks gestation
  • Your baby has had fetal scalp sampling of blood from the scalp prior to the vacuum extraction
  • Your baby has a bone condition like osteogenesis imperfecta that makes for week bones
  • The baby’s head hasn’t moved past the midpoint of the birth canal
  • You don’t know the position of the baby’s head
  • The shoulders or arms lead the way in the birth canal
  • The baby is definitely too big or the pelvis is definitely too small

There are risks to both the mother and fetus in having a vacuum extraction. Possible risks to the mother include:

  • Perineal pain, which is pain to the tissue between the vagina and anus following the delivery
  • Tears and wounds in the lower genital tract
  • Urinary or fecal incontinence, which is usually transient
  • Problems emptying the bladder or with voiding that is not long-lasting
  • Anemia from extra blood loss in a vacuum extraction
  • Weakening of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons which get stretched in the process of vacuum extraction. This is called pelvic organ prolapse.

These are things that can happen in regular deliveries but they are more pronounced in vacuum extractions. During the vacuum extraction, the obstetrician is more likely to do an episiotomy to allow the vacuum cone to fit through. This adds to the amount of bleeding and the risk of infection that can happen following the vacuum assisted delivery.

There can be risks to the fetus as well in a vacuum assisted delivery. These include the following:

  • Scalp wounds from the vacuum suction
  • A brachial plexus injury to the nerves exiting the spine in the shoulder region that control function of the arm and hand
  • A fracture of the fetal collarbone
  • Bleeding inside the fetal skull
  • Skull fracture

Fortunately, serious injuries following a vacuum extraction are really uncommon.

Vacuum Extraction Injury Solicitors

For honest and independent legal advice contact our legal professionals today. If you have suffered personal injury and you fear you may have been the victim of incompetence there is no time for delay. In order to know your options you should seek expert legal advice as soon as possible. Our medical negligence solicitors operate a no charge service whereby you can meet us in person or chat over the telephone with one of our experts and obtain initial advice. If you subsequently decide to proceed no further then that is your right and you will not be charged for our initial advice.


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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here