Sepsis & Septic Shock in Babies are Often Preventable: Mismanaged Pregnancy Infections & Central Line Infections are Common Causes

Award-Winning Cerebral Palsy Lawyers Helping Children Affected by Sepsis, Septic Shock, Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) & Meningitis | Serving Michigan, Ohio, Washington, D.C. & All 50 States

Septic shock is a very serious condition that can develop shortly after birth and severely threaten the life of a newborn baby. Septic shock can cause a number of dangerous conditions and health problems including dangerously low blood pressure. This can cause a baby to develop a brain injury called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which can cause permanent brain damage and lifelong conditions including cerebral palsy, intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), and seizures.

Septic shock occurs when sepsis, an infection in the bloodstream, is poorly managed and develops into shock. In a newborn, sepsis is usually caused by a maternal infection that travels to the baby at birth, causing the baby to become infected. Maternal infections that can harm the baby’s health include Group B Strep (GBS), unrinary tract infections (UTI), bacterial vaginosis (BV), herpes simplex virus (HSV) and chorioamnionitis. Chorioamnionitis is an infection of the amniotic fluid and membranes that surround the baby in the womb. Even if sepsis does not progress to septic shock, it can still cause infection in the brain that results in the baby having brain damage and lifelong disorders such as cerebral palsy, seizures, developmental delays and intellectual disabilities.


Sepsis & cerebral palsy lawyers Jesse Reiter & Rebecca WalshThe award-winning birth injury attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have helped hundreds of children affected by hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and cerebral palsy. Jesse Reiter, president of ABC Law Centers, has been focusing solely on birth injury cases for over 28 years, and most of his cases involve hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and cerebral palsy. Partners Jesse Reiter and Rebecca Walsh are currently recognized as two of the best medical malpractice lawyers in America by U.S. News and World Report 2015, which also recognized ABC Law Centers as one of the best medical malpractice law firms in the nation.  The lawyers at ABC Law Centers have won numerous awards for their advocacy of children and are members of the Birth Trauma Litigation Group (BTLG) and the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ). In fact, Jesse is one of only 2 Michigan attorneys to have been elected Chair of the BTLG.

If your baby experienced sepsis, septic shock and/or meningitis and now has seizures, HIE, brain damage, cerebral palsy or any other long-term condition, contact Reiter & Walsh today at 888-419-2229. Our award-winning cerebral palsy lawyers are available 24/7 to speak with you.


Another easily preventable cause of septic shock in a child is a central line infection. A central line catheter runs straight to the heart and is used to deliver medications, antibiotics and blood products, and/or to draw blood. If bacteria manage to get into the central line, an infection in the bloodstream can quickly occur. Central line infections are an epidemic that killed 9,997 people in 2013, and thousands more were seriously injured as a result of these infections.

The story of a 3 year old girl who was killed by a central line infection that caused septic shock is one of many tragedies recently brought to light by patient care advocates. Advocates are urging all hospitals to adopt simple policies that can help prevent central line infections. These policies include rigorous handwashing and wearing gloves while handling the central line – and ensuring that the gloves don’t become contaminated by a bed rail or other object. Sterile drapes should be placed around the central line site before line insertion and the site must be cleaned with an antiseptic solution. The doctor inserting the line should wear sterile gloves, hat, mask and gown.

Dr. Pronovost of Johns Hopkins is the physician that brought the central line infection epidemic to light. He came up with a checklist of 5 things the medical team should do to prevent line infections and he initially found that doctors followed the checklist only 30% of the time. At Johns Hopkins University Hospital, however, where he stocked carts to make it easy for the medical team to follow his checklist, the results were incredible. Within 3 months of the checklist being followed, central line infections dropped by 50%. By 6 months, they were down 70%.

The Michigan Hospital Association recruited almost 60% of all Michigan hospitals to implement Pronovost’s rules for how to handle central lines. A doctor from Beaumont Health System got involved and recalls that when he had his hospital change their central line protocols, the result was a near zero rate of line infections.


Knowing that your baby was severely injured because a nurse or doctor didn’t use an aseptic technique when handling your child’s line is devastating. It is also tragic to learn that the doctor failed to properly treat an infection during pregnancy, resulting in sepsis and brain damage in your newborn.

Newborn babies develop early-onset sepsis by contracting an infection from the mother during birth; the infection is either transmitted to the baby through amniotic fluid or from bacteria that is infecting the mother’s genital tract. Once bacteria gain access to the bloodstream, there may be overwhelming infection throughout the baby’s body (septicemia) and / or the infection can become localized in the baby’s lungs (pneumonia) or in the brain (meningitis).

This infection in the baby’s body can be so severe that it causes inflammation throughout the body, problems with the immune system, circulatory system dysfunction, and major organ problems. When a baby has septic shock, there are severe heart and vascular problems such as very low blood pressure, blood flow problems, decreased urine output and acidic blood (metabolic acidosis). The baby has inadequate blood getting to her tissues, and this can cause organ damage, including permanent brain injury.

A diagnosis of septic shock is made when the baby has signs of inadequate blood flow to the tissues, suspected or proven infection, and two signs of systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), which is an inflammatory state affecting the whole body. Signs of SIRS include a fast heart rate, high or low body temperature, fast breathing, and markers for infection, such as an abnormal number of white blood cells or immature neutrophils.


The medical problems that occur when a baby is in shock can perpetuate each other and create additional problems. Listed below are some of the things your baby may experience if she has septic shock.

  • Fever
  • Use of a breathing machine called a ventilator. This is especially likely if the baby has pneumonia and / or respiratory distress.
  • Hypothermia (baby’s core body temperature is lower than normal)
  • Very fast or very slow heart rate
  • Cool extremities
  • Very fast breathing, very slow breathing, or periods whereby breathing stops for 20 seconds or more (apnea)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Altered mental state (baby is irritable, anxious, lethargic, overly sleepy or apneic)
  • Sunken eyes
  • Decreased urine output

Septic shock is the most common cause of death during the newborn period. Babies that survive may have permanent brain damage and cerebral palsy. However, if the shock is recognized early and prompt treatment is given, the baby can have a good outcome. Of course, prompt treatment of sepsis is key so that septic shock never develops. But when a baby is in septic shock, supportive care and antibiotic treatment are equally important. Antibiotic treatment is of such critical importance that physicians should begin administering these drugs even if sepsis is suspected; they should not delay treatment while waiting for test results.


Treatment for septic shock to help prevent hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) & cerebral palsy.Treatment for septic shock involves giving fluid therapy and using volume expansion drugs to increase the baby’s blood pressure. Oxygen therapy at 100% is initially used to increase oxygen delivery to the tissues, but this must be tapered down as soon as possible to avoid oxygen toxicity. The main goals of the treatments given to babies who have septic shock are 1.) restoration of blood flow in the tissues, 2.) improvement of oxygen delivery to tissues, and 3.) normalization of cellular metabolism (energy demand and consumption).

Babies with septic shock are at risk for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hypocalcemia (low blood calcium). Both conditions must be promptly treated. If left untreated, these conditions can cause heart and brain problems.

It is critical that improvement in circulation, perfusion (blood flow and delivery of blood to tissues) and organ function occur within the first 6 hours of a baby going into septic shock, and this is the main goal of treatment.  Failure to do so can result in the baby developing hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and long-term conditions such as cerebral palsy.


When septic shock is recognized and the baby is resuscitated, meaning that her blood pressure, heart rate and other cardiovascular issues are stabilized, she may need to be transferred to a hospital that has neonatal critical care specialists. Babies in septic shock must be treated by specialized teams, and it also is important that the team transporting the baby have expertise in managing neonatal septic shock.

The length of time of recovery from septic shock varies widely, and is dependent upon many factors, including how well the baby’s organs are functioning and whether blood pressure and perfusion are normalizing. Lasting heart problems can slow down recovery, as can lung problems. Since many babies with sepsis require help with breathing, it may be weeks before respiratory distress and pneumonia resolve enough to allow the baby to breathe on her own. Some babies remain in the hospital for many weeks following septic shock. If the baby has brain damage and conditions such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), meningitis or cerebral palsy, she may need frequent and regular visits to neurologists, therapists and other specialists.


When a baby has sepsis or septic shock and the infection directly enters the central nervous system or causes inflammation in the brain, the baby may develop meningitis, which is inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can cause fluid build-up in the brain, increased pressure in the brain, brain abscesses (pus-filled pockets), hydrocephalus, lack of blood flow to parts of the brain, and stroke. These conditions are extremely damaging. Doctors should promptly treat sepsis and septic shock in order to decrease the risk of meningitis.

Signs of meningitis include a failure to respond to antibiotic therapy, slow heart rate, respiratory depression, bulging fontanelle (soft spot), fast head growth, separation of parts of the skull, weakness on one side of the body, and seizures. When meningitis occurs, it must be treated as soon as possible to try and minimize the brain damage that can occur. Brain damage caused by meningitis can cause cerebral palsy, developmental delays, seizure disorders and learning disabilities.

Septic shock can cause hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), seizures and cerebral palsy in numerous ways. The cardiovascular effects of shock can cause significant oxygen deprivation in the baby’s brain, which can cause permanent brain damage. Shock can also cause heart, liver and kidney dysfunction, which can also lead to brain damage. If the baby has significant breathing problems, such as pneumonia and / or respiratory distress, she is at risk of suffering from a lack of oxygen to her brain as well as overventilation injuries, which can cause cerebral palsy. Other issues caused by septic shock, such as metabolic problems, hypoglycemia, hypocalcemia and other electrolyte problems that can either directly or indirectly affect the brain.


If you are seeking the help of a birth injury lawyer, it is very important to choose a lawyer and firm that focus solely on birth injury cases. Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers is a national birth injury law firm that has been helping children for almost 3 decades.

Award-winning cerebral palsy and birth injury lawyersJesse Reiter, president of ABC Law Centers, has been focusing solely on birth injury cases for over 28 years, and most of his cases involve hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and cerebral palsy. Jesse is currently recognized as one of the best medical malpractice lawyers in America by U.S. News and World Report 2015, which also recognized ABC Law Centers as one of the best medical malpractice law firms in the nation. The lawyers at ABC Law Centers have won numerous awards for their advocacy of children and are members of the Birth Trauma Litigation Group (BTLG) and the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ). In fact, Jesse is one of only 2 attorneys in Michigan to have been elected Chair of the BTLG.

If your child was diagnosed with a birth injury, such as sepsis, septic shock, meningitis, cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), the award-winning birth injury lawyers at ABC Law Centers can help. We have helped children throughout the country obtain compensation for lifelong treatment, therapy and a secure future, and we give personal attention to each child and family we represent. Our nationally recognized birth injury firm has numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success and no fees are ever paid to our firm until we win your case. Email or call Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers at 888-419-2229 for a free case evaluation. Our firm’s award-winning birth injury lawyers are available 24 / 7 to speak with you.

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