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U.S. hospitals seek solutions to prevent pregnancy-related injuries

With modern advances in all areas of the medical field, the common perception tends to be that medical procedures are easier for doctors and safer for Fayetteville patients than ever before. Surprisingly, that's not always the case, even when it comes to childbirth.

In the past decade, emergencies during childbirth have increased by an alarming 75 percent, with incidents of cardiac arrest, kidney failure and respiratory distress listed as some of the common complications.

Why the increase in pregnancy and childbirth-related complications? An increase of older women are giving birth today as are more women who are obese or who have chronic conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease. These factors essentially increase the risks of serious birth injuries, and doctors need to be prepared to handle these situations as safely as possible.

Considering about 4 million children are born in the U.S. each year, it's reasonable that a number of these pregnancies and births will have complications, yet some complications and injuries are avoidable. The question is, are hospitals prepared and equipped with the right staff, training and resources to properly address emergencies during childbirth? The answer appears to be that hospitals are beginning to take more measures to assure patient safety in this regard, including conducting simulated emergencies using actresses and robots to better train staff.

In addition, hospitals are also borrowing a strategy called situation-background-assessment-recommendation from the military. This approach serves to rapidly inform everyone on the medical team of the patient's condition and the steps to follow for addressing the emergency in a safe manner. This approach has shown significant success. Since implementing these new procedures and training methods, liability claims filed at participating hospitals have decreased by nearly 40 percent.

One hospital chain has implemented another strategy to reduce birth injuries. Prior to allowing any doctor to perform deliveries in its hospitals, the doctors must take part in delivery room simulation drills.

Obstetrics-related complications result in about $17.4 billion in hospital costs annually in the U.S. And childbirth complication-related lawsuits have resulted in high malpractice payouts because birth injuries can lead to debilitating conditions or fatal injuries.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Steep Rise of Complications in Childbirth Spurs Action," Laura Landro Dec. 10, 2012

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