Note - no one is maligning anybody. Just as media published both sides, I am publishing this reply.
The author of this reply is Dr. Akhilesh Pateraya. akhilesh.pateraya@
Reputations take a lifetime to build, is it right to destroy them without understanding true facts and make a hospital and its doctors look inhuman? The true facts of Ms Rashmi BT’s case
Ms. Rashmi B.T. was under the care of a senior gynaecologist in Bangalore for her second pregnancy. She had a breech presentation (where the legs of the baby present itself first instead of the head during the time of delivery) in the earlier pregnancy which required a C-Section. She made a conscious decision to shift under Dr. Latha Venkatram’s care at Wockhardt Hospitals, Bangalore in the 35th week of her pregnancy largely because she was aware that Vaginal Birth after Caesarian Section (VBAC) was an option and wanted to select that option for her second delivery. She had collected information that Dr. Latha Venkatram was one of the senior gynecologists in the city who offered this option to her patients. From the OPD records filed by Dr Latha Venkatram it is evident that Rashmi was counseled and given ample information about the procedure and the risks associated with it and she took an informed choice to select this procedure.
Vaginal Birth after Caesarian Section (VBAC) is the term used when a woman gives birth vaginally, having had a caesarian delivery in the past. Worldwide VBAC, if possible, is being recommended and preferred over repeat C-Sections as its advantages substantially outweigh the disadvantages. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists patient information guideline 2008 “Birth after previous Caesarian Section”, overall three out of four women with an uncomplicated pregnancy would give birth vaginally following one caesarian section delivery. The short-term and long term complications inherent in a C-Section make it preferable that a woman is offered the choice of a VBAC. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and have set a goal of 37% VBAC deliveries by 2010
Repeat Caesarian sections are associated with:
o A possibly more difficult operation
o Longer recovery period
o Possibility of injury to bladder or bowel
o Possibility of blood clots developing in legs and pulmonary thrombosis
o Breathing problems for the baby. Higher in C-Section than in VBAC
o Serious risks increase with every Caesarian delivery
o Higher chance of infection
o Future complications for the mother who has had repeated opening of the abdomen
o Higher costs
VBAC has a shorter stay in the hospital, faster recovery as well as lower cost for the patient. There is a risk of uterine rupture but this risk is approximately 0.5%. In spite of this risk the benefits of VBAC far outweigh the risks. As in all medical procedures there is no way to predict which patient would fall under the 0.5% risk of uterine rupture or any way by which this rupture can be prevented. A VBAC delivery is more demanding of the gynaecologist, as it takes 6-8 hours as compared to a C-Section, which in a planned fashion would be over in less than 40-45 minutes. Also the mother and child need close monitoring it is estimated that one will have to do as many as 200+ unnecessary C-Sections to prevent the occurrence of 1 uterine rupture. In most cases a uterine rupture is not fatal. However in the best interest of Ms Rashmi, Latha Venkatram gave her both the choices and Ms Rashmi chose to opt for the VBAC option.
Ms. Rashmi B.T. was a fit candidate for a VBAC. She had a breech presentation in the earlier pregnancy which required a C-Section. A breech presentation in the earlier pregnancy which necessitated a C-Section is in fact an indication to offer a VBAC to the patient in the subsequent pregnancies. An age of 35 is not a contraindication to a VBAC. The fact that she was 5 days past her due date was also not a contraindication to a VBAC because less than 5% of patients deliver on their due date.
During her antenatal visits to Dr. Latha Venkatram, Ms Rashmi B.T. was explained in detail about the pros and cons of VBAC and she agreed to undergo the procedure. The OPD case records have these notations. She was also clearly informed by Dr. Latha Venkatraman that she works along with Dr. Prabha Ramakrishna as a team and either of them would be present during her delivery. Doctors particularly in the area of obstetrics frequently prefer to work as a team since many times an emergency may hold one of them which would make it possible for the other team member to attend to the delivery as the date and time of delivery cannot be predicted. In a VBAC considering that a consultant needs to be around for most of the labor period it is prudent that a team takes care of the patient. Both Consultants of the team Dr. Latha Venkatram and Dr. Prabha Ramakrishna are Fellows and Members of the Royal College of Obstetricians UK.
Ms Rashmi B.T was admitted to the hospital early morning on the 4th of March 2009 in spontaneous labour. She was connected to monitors for a close monitoring of both maternal and fetal parameters. She was visited by Dr. Latha Venkatram soon after admission. An experienced nurse and a fully qualified gynaecology registrar were monitoring her constantly. The Consultant Dr. Prabha Ramakrishna was also available on the same floor and repeatedly examined her. She was kept informed about the progress of the labour.
The labour progressed normally until 1.50 p.m when a sudden decrease in the fetal heart rate was noted (fetal bradycardia). The tracings before 1.50 p.m were normal. The moment fetal bradycardia occurred, the consultant Dr. Prabha Ramakrishna who was on the same floor was called in by the gynecology registrar. When Dr. Prabha Ramkrishna examined Ms Rashmi, the baby’s head position was a little high. She was asked to push to see if the baby’s head would come to +2 position in which case she could do a forceps in the labor room itself and deliver the child. When the baby’s head did not descend as required she asked for the patient to be shifted to the Operating room. After this Ms.Rashmi was not asked to bear down any further.
Shift to the OT was rapid since the dedicated Operation Theatre for Caesarian sections is situated within the labour room complex and this theatre is not used for any other procedure. Within 7-8 mins the patient was in the theatre. The anesthetist had a choice of going in for an emergency general anesthesia which has inherent risks for a pregnant woman or to go in for epidural anesthesia. Since the patient was already receiving pain medication (epidural analgesia) it was decided that for the safety of the mother increasing this analgesia to achieve anesthesia was the preferred option. In the OT the fetal heart rate was recorded as 180 b.p.m on the Doppler. On the OT table an examination was done and it was found that the head had receded and a forceps delivery was not attempted. An immediate emergency C-section was then performed.
The anesthetists, Neo-Natologists and the surgical nursing team had assembled in the theatre within a few minutes of the emergency being declared. The hospital has full- time anesthetists, Neo-Natologists and a surgical nursing team working round the clock to attend to all kinds of medical emergencies.
At the time of birth the baby did not have a heart beat or respiration. Resuscitation was started and the heart beat started about half a minute later. The child was immediately shifted to the Neonatal ICU and put on the ventilator. The baby’s weight at birth has been recorded in the NICU as about 3 Kg. The only reason an exact weight could not be taken in the NICU was that the child was already attached to various lifesaving equipments and the neonatologist had to make the closest estimate. However it must be noted here that a birth weight of 4 KG is not a contraindication for a VBAC.
In the neonatal ICU the clinical team met the family on a daily basis and kept them informed about the status of the baby and the prognosis. The poor prognosis was explained to the parents on the 2nd day itself. An opinion from an external eminent neonatologist was also sought who concurred with the poor prognosis. All decisions regarding further care were made only after extensive discussions with the parents of the baby. Dr.Prakash Vemgal our Neo-Natologist is not only highly experienced but has also gone through some of the highest training in Neo- Natology in high patient volume and reputed international centres.
The doctors and the management (including senior management personnel) of the Wockhardt Hospitals group spent long hours with the parents understanding and trying to address their concerns. As is the normal practice in such a case a complete internal review was done. The family sent to us a detailed list of areas they wanted us to look into during our investigation. We did go into each of these areas and sent them a detailed reply addressing most of these issues including taking the opinion of two leading and senior external gynecologists of the city who do substantial VBAC work. It is unfortunate to note that inspite of providing her all clarifications Ms Rashmi has been projecting an extremely poor image of Dr. Latha Venkatram and the hospital.
Our internal review involved discussions with our own team of gynaecologists, meetings with two external gynaecologists who practice VBAC and the entire clinical care team. Our findings after this detailed internal review are summarized below.
a. Ms Rashmi BT was a fit candidate for a VBAC. She would have been offered this procedure as a first choice by any gynecologist or hospital which practices advanced obstetrics anywhere in the world. Her age or the week of pregnancy were not contraindications to go in for a VBAC.
b. She had made a conscious and informed decision about going in for a VBAC. She had changed her senior gynecologist whom she was consulting until the 35th week of her pregnancy primarily because that gynaecologist was not in a position to offer VBAC.
c. The OPD case notes of which she was given the duplicate copy recorded that she was willing for VBAC and she was informed about all risks of her decision.
d. Both the mother and the child had been monitored carefully right through the labour
e. All medications used for progressing labor were prescribed agents and safe for use in VBAC
f. She did have a uterine rupture which in VBAC carries a risk of 0.5%. This rupture could in no way be predicted or prevented. In spite of the rupture the gynecology team was able to save the uterus for future child bearing.
g. The Operation theatre was ready at the time it was required.
h. All the staff were present in the Operation Theatre within a few minutes of the emergency being declared
i. While the baby was in the NICU Dr.Prakash Vemgal the head of Neo-Natology met up with the parents at regular intervals and kept the family clearly informed about the status and prognosis. All major decisions were taken only after discussion with the parents.
j. Senior management of the organization met up with the family on multiple occasions to understand and address their concerns
A minute by minute account of her story as is being spread through the various emails circulated by various people who were neither physically present during her admission to the hospital nor were involved in her care process exhibits to us a determined effort to harm the reputation of the gynecologist and the hospital without having any understanding of the clinical facts of the case.
Is medicine now going to be judged through the lens of only opinions running across chain mails or through the untiring efforts of institutions and doctors which toil endlessly to save lives but remain spectators to their actions being judged by emotive outbursts?
We do understand the pain and suffering of Ms Rashmi BT. As a hospital every life is precious to us but we are also are in the world of medicine where unfortunate rare complications can be counteracted but every procedure cannot be made risk free. There are many lives which we save each day when all has been given up and each such case teaches us that to pursue medicine is to pursue the limits of the unknown but does that mean that we become victims of public misinformation
We have taken all necessary care and followed every medical protocol that any reputed institution across the globe would have followed. However it is unfortunate that even though Ms Rashmi has not been a victim of any medical negligence she has chosen by this random spread of irrational mails to use a redressal system that is purposely harming the reputation of Dr Latha Venkatram, Dr.Prabha Ramakrisha and our institution.
The case can be subjected to analysis by any competent authority.