Pediatric Dehydration Malpractice: Failure to Treat Dehydration in Infants

Severe dehydration rarely “just happens”. It usually occurs when an infant has another illness (such as gastroenteritis, or stomach flu) or injury (such as second- or third-degree burns) that depletes the body’s water and electrolytes. These cases occur here in Orlando, throughout Florida, and beyond. We’ve discussed the condition in previous posts, and now we’re looking at outcomes.

Infants and children are at the greatest risk because their small bodies have a high turnover of water and electrolytes and are, as a group, most likely to have diarrhea. Even when perfectly healthy, they need to drink and eat more frequently than adults. Regardless of how severe dehydration happens, there are many possible outcomes if a doctor commits pediatric dehydration malpractice and fails to prevent or treat dehydration, the most common and serious of which I describe below.

In every case, you should contact a pediatric dehydration malpractice attorney to discuss possible recourse.

Cerebral Edema

In plain English, cerebral edema means “swelling of the brain”. If dehydration is not properly treated, the body may rehydrated too quickly, causing brain cells to swell and potentially rupture. The increase of pressure against the skull can restrict blood flow, which in turn reduces the amount of oxygen the brain receives. This end result may be the permanent damage or death of brain cells.


Electrolytes carry electrical signals between cells. If electrolyte levels become lowered, those signals can get mixed up, leading to delirium, involuntary muscle contractions or unconsciousness. While most seizures do not cause long-lasting harm to the brain, they can sometimes cause brain damage.

Hypovolemic Shock

Blood is 90% water. When the body become dehydrated, the volume of fluid in the blood decreases causing the heart to pump faster. This may lead to hypovolemic shock, or low blood volume shock. This is one of the most serious complications of dehydration and can be life-threatening. When in shock the cells malfunction, which leads to cell death and eventually to organ failure.

Kidney Failure

When the volume of fluid in the blood decreases, this also means that otherwise healthy kidneys do not receive enough blood to function properly (meaning they cannot remove excess fluid and waste from blood). This is called prerenal acute kidney injury and it is potentially life-threatening. If not treated, it can lead to tissue death and complete kidney failure.


As described above, severe dehydration may lead to many malfunctions in the body. Those malfunctions may lead to coma or even death if they are not treated properly. In our next post, about How Doctors Can Miss Important Cues, I’ll share the case of an infant who was given a narcotic that resulted in cardiac arrest and death because she was severely dehydrated and her body could not handle the drug.

No matter how or why doctors fail to properly treat severe dehydration in infants, they must be held accountable when the outcome results in injury or death. Pediatric dehydration malpractice is best addressed in court by an experienced practitioner. Only an experienced pediatric malpractice attorney can get you the help you need. Contact Orlando malpractice attorney Jeff Badgley to review your case today.

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