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Overventilation in the NICU

Syracuse Lawyers Helping Families Harmed by Birth Injuries

Your baby may need to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) right after birth. With certain conditions, newborns need the help of a ventilator to breathe. An endotracheal tube is inserted to the newborn’s windpipe and linked to the ventilator. The baby is given oxygen to make sure he or she gets the right amount of oxygen and that a reasonable amount of carbon dioxide is exiting the baby’s lungs. If your baby sustained a serious birth injury due to overventilation in the NICU, you should call the Syracuse birth injury attorneys at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano for a consultation.

Overventilation in the NICU

Premature babies who are born before reaching 34 weeks of gestation may need a ventilator to help with breathing. The more premature a baby is the more likely he or she will need mechanical ventilation. Babies who are not properly ventilated may experience catastrophic injuries, including low blood sugar, jaundice, heart conditions, respiratory issues, and brain bleeds. While many people recognize that oxygen deprivation can result in brain damage, they may not realize that overventilation — too much oxygen — can also harm a baby.

The doctors and nurses in the NICU should carefully monitor a newborn’s oxygen levels. When a respirator is set for too high a rate of ventilation, carbon dioxide may be excessively blown off. When a newborn is overventilated, the carbon dioxide in his or her blood may fall to an abnormal range, a state that’s called hypocarbia. Low CO2 levels can permanently restrict blood flow to the brain, resulting in damage to white matter or periventricular leukomalacia, which can lead to cerebral palsy. Overventilation can also trigger problems like pneumothorax or a worsening of bronchopulmonary dysplasia.


To recover compensation in a birth injury lawsuit, you must show that a health care provider breached the professional standard of care owed to you and your child, and this breach caused your baby’s birth injuries. The applicable standard of care is based on practice of health care providers in the same specialty and geographic region because New York follows the locality rule. Thus, a Syracuse obstetrician-gynecologist will be judged according to what other reasonably prudent obstetrician-gynecologists in Syracuse would have done in a similar situation. If you have questions whether a birth injury was the result of medical malpractice, speak with an experienced lawyer.

When nurses or physicians breach the professional standard of care while treating a premature baby, overventilation may result. Overventilation can occur because health care providers fail to properly regulate the volume of air being given by a ventilator or the pressure that the ventilated air places on the lungs. When providers set oxygen delivery at too high a level, the baby’s carbon dioxide levels may fall below normal. A continuously low carbon dioxide level can result in decreased blood flow. Medical errors may also occur when a flexible tube is placed in the windpipe and the baby has an oxygen mask that is squeezed by hand to force air into the newborn’s lungs. The disadvantage of bagging is that there is no way to know for certain how much air is being put into the lungs. The result can be serious injuries to the newborn’s lungs.

Retain a Knowledgeable Syracuse Attorney

The birth of your child should be thrilling. Unfortunately, some babies are born prematurely or with breathing complications that require them to spend time in the NICU. The health care providers in the NICU should take care to make sure your newborn is properly ventilated. If your baby sustained birth injuries as a result of overventilation in the NICU, you should talk about whether you can recover damages with the seasoned trial lawyers of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano. We represent babies and their families in Rochester and Syracuse. We also provide legal representation in Upstate New York cities like Cooperstown, Oswego, Lyons, Oneida, Wampsville, Binghamton, Auburn, Canandaigua, Watertown, Ithaca, Utica, Herkimer Elmira, and Lowville. Call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano at 833-200-2000 or complete our online form.

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"We were very impressed with how Jeff DeFrancisco represented us at trial and we were extremely happy when the jury found in our favor." D.M., Auburn, NY
"I suffered a serious injury as a result of medical malpractice. My husband and I retained Jeff DeFrancisco to assist us in this case. We were extremely happy with his representation and highly recommend him." Kelley R., Syracuse, NY
Since the insurance company was unwilling to settle the matter my case ultimately went to trial. At trial Jeff DeFrancisco did an absolutely amazing job by obtaining a very favorable result for me." T.H., Oneida, NY
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