Posted on 04/20/2022

Can overventilation in NICUs cause birth injuries?

Can overventilation in NICUs cause birth injuries?

NICU nurses and medical providers have a duty to carefully monitor and maintain your baby’s health. 

If ventilation is required in your baby’s treatment, then nurses and medical providers must thoroughly observe your newborn to reduce the risk of overventilation.

Overventilation can cause irreversible damage and injuries to your newborn.

We’re going to break down what a ventilator does, how it’s used, and what happens in the event of overventilation.

If your child has suffered injuries due to overventilation, it’s critical to reach out to a medical malpractice attorney to file a NICU overventilation lawsuit.

What is a ventilator and how is it used in the NICU?

A baby is transferred to the NICU department of the hospital when they require 24/7 observation and care due to a serious health complication. 

NICU stands for neonatal intensive care unit. The length of stay in the NICU will depend on the baby’s condition. 

A ventilator is a device that helps support the baby’s pulmonary function. In other words, it helps them breathe. The possibility of needing a ventilator drastically increases the earlier the baby is born.

The ventilator is attached to a tube that is inserted through the baby’s mouth or nose to connect to their trachea (the windpipe) and assist with breathing.

When an obstetrician, or medical provider, decides to put a newborn on ventilation, they must consider several factors, such as the baby’s gestation, birth weight, and age. Many premature infants and low birth weight infants are put on ventilation to prevent brain injury and respiratory distress.

Once a newborn is receiving pulmonary help with the assistance of a ventilator, medical providers must observe and assess the newborn’s progression, their lung functions, and their response to the treatment.

Any miscalculation, or misstep in treatment can cause further injuries to the baby and provide grounds for a malpractice lawsuit.

What happens if a baby receives too much oxygen?

A ventilator is meant to save your baby but there are ventilation related risk factors.

Too much oxygen, or hyperventilation, can cause lifelong health complications to your baby. If the ventilator is set too high, then it could cause low carbon dioxide levels in the baby’s blood. 

Once Co2 drops, blood vessels in the baby’s brain will constrict and further damage the white matter in their brain.

Newborns need healthy white matter so that the brain can process nerve impulses effectively. Without sufficient white matter, a child will experience developmental delays and disabilities in their motor skills and cognition.

Hypocarbia is when there is a reduced amount of carbon dioxide in the blood. Also known as hypocapnia, hypocarbia may also occur if they get too much oxygen. 

Too little carbon dioxide can cause permanent brain damage. In the most tragic cases, it can also cause death.

Birth injuries linked to overventilation

Most of the common birth injuries related to overventilation are irreversible. The damages done to your baby will not only affect their future, but your family as well.

Some of the most common birth injuries caused by overventilation are Cerebral Palsy, PVL, IVH and developmental delays.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy, or CP, is a group of disorders that affect the baby’s movement, posture and balance. CP can be a spectrum of disabilities ranging from mild to severe.

In the more severe cases, your child may require assistance with walking and other day to day activities.


Also known as periventricular leukomalacia, PVL is a softening of the white matter in the brain tissue near the ventricles. PVL happens when damage has been done to the white matter and therefore affects the sending of information between the nerves and the spinal cord.Obviously the spinal cord affects motor movements and coordination. 

A child with PVL would need assistance with daily activities, such as buttoning a shirt, or pulling up their pants. 


ntraventricular hemorrhage is when there is excessive bleeding in the ventricles of the brain. This condition is mostly seen in premature births and can be determined within the first few days following labor. 

Treatment for IVH depends on the severity of the bleeding. A spinal tap or surgery may need to be performed.

Developmental delays

Developmental disabilities and delays can cover a wide range of disorders. There are developmental milestones that are widely accepted as the standard phases of development for children. 

These milestones start as early as 2 months and continue on to 5 years old. The different milestones include progress in each of the following:

  • Social and emotional skills
  • Language and communication skills
  • Cognitive skills
  • Movement and physical ability skills

"(Required)" indicates required fields

Were you injured by medical malpractice or are you reporting for someone else?(Required)
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

By entering your contact information, you are providing consent for Grover Lewis Johnson to contact you at the email and number you provided via telephone, mobile device, text SMS/MMS and pre-recorded messages, even if you are registered on a corporate, state, or federal Do Not Call list. You are also acknowledging and agreeing to our terms of service and privacy policy. Consent is not required to use our services.

Is overventilation considered medical malpractice?

Overventilation that’s caused by medical negligence or a level of care in NICU that doesn’t meet the standard is grounds for a medical malpractice claim. If you suspect your medical provider acted with negligence in your child’s treatment and diagnosis, you deserve compensation.

If your baby was diagnosed with any of the conditions we discussed as a result of overventilation in the NICU, contact an experienced medical malpractice law firm. 

Mistakes happen, but some damages will cause grief and serious complications for your child throughout their life. 

Your medical provider and the hospital they were providing care under should be held accountable for their negligent acts. Overventilation can be prevented with the standard level of care.

You have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit if your attorney can prove that your medical provider breached the standard level of care and therefore caused an injury to your child. 

Reach out to a medical malpractice lawyer today

In any legal case, time is of the essence, so it’s in your best interest to hire an attorney as soon as you’re ready to discuss your claim.

Reach out to one of our experienced and trusted attorneys at Grover Lewis Johnson to get started on your legal pursuit.

We’ve been fighting medical malpractice cases and negligence claims for the last 25 years. We’re prepared to discuss our expertise in birth injury claims and to fearlessly fight for you. 

Fill out our intake form to schedule your free consultation.