Placental abruption, also called abruptio placenta, is a condition where the placenta prematurely separates from the uterus. It is estimated that placental abruption occurs in approximately 1 in every 120 deliveries accounts for approximately 10 to 15 percent of fetal death.
Several conditions have been recognized as being associated with an increased risk for a placental abruption. These include maternal hypertension, advanced maternal age and a prior history of placental abruption.
Placental abruptions are characterized as being “total,” “partial” or “marginal” depending upon the extent of placental separation.
Visible vaginal bleeding, typically associated with painful abdominal or back pain, is considered to be the most obvious sign of placental abruption.
However, in a significant number of cases, placental abruptions can result in no visible vaginal bleeding. In such cases, the blood remains “concealed” and is retained between the detached placenta and the uterus. So-called “concealed” or “occult” placental abruptions require prompt and careful diagnosis and the expeditious implementation of medical treatment to reduce both maternal and fetal risks of injury and death.
Careful and safe obstetricians typically diagnose placental abruptions by evaluating both maternal and fetal clinical signs and symptoms. It has been recognized that abdominal ultrasounds are generally unhelpful in definitively identifying placental abruptions for the purpose of diagnosis.
A placental abruption or abruptio placenta is considered a dire obstetrical emergency, potentially placing both the life of the mother and her baby at risk.
Accordingly, the prompt diagnosis of a placental abruption is critical to the implementation of appropriate medical interventions, which often includes emergency cesarean delivery.
As a placenta abrupts, or tears away or separates from the uterus, it not only can result in potentially massive maternal bleeding, but it also results in the loss of perfusion of oxygenated blood to the baby through the umbilical cord.
Thus, if the extent of the placental separation is of any significance, the baby will be at extreme risk for suffering hypoxia, or loss of oxygen, thereby leading to such potentially severe consequences as permanent brain injury, cerebral palsy or even death.
Thus, the diagnosis of placental abruption must be made as expeditiously as possible so that reasonable precautions and medical interventions can be promptly implemented to avoid the possible life threatening risks for both mother and baby.
The Law Firm of Dugan, Babij, Tolley & Kohler, LLC has extensive experience in representing families whose loved ones have died or been injured as a result of medical malpractice associated with the management of a patient with placental abruption or abruptio placenta.