Cerebral palsy affects nearly 500,000 children in the United States every year. The condition can be mild or severe, and it may impact a person’s movement, balance, sight, hearing, and ability to learn. Cerebral palsy can be detrimental to a person’s quality of life and overall well-being, as well as a financial burden due to ongoing medical bills. While the exact cause of an individual case is not always easy to identify, it is always a result of damage to a developing brain. As such, birth injury is often suspected as a likely cause.
Brain injury may occur during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or shortly after birth. In an extremely small percentage of cerebral palsy cases, the condition is believed to be a caused by a genetic factor; however, the remaining 98% of cases are attributed to preventable factors. Victims of cerebral palsy typically require specialized care throughout their entire lives, making it critical to examine the possible causes of this type of brain injury, and take steps to minimize risk.
Premature birth: Nearly half of all children born with cerebral palsy are born premature. It is believed that premature babies’ underdeveloped bodies and organs make them more susceptible to injury and infection, specifically, infants that weigh less than three pounds at birth.
Maternal infections: When the mother develops an infection during pregnancy, it increases the risk of her fetus developing cerebral palsy. The danger is highest with an infection known as chorioamnionitis that affects the membrane surrounding the fetus and amniotic fluid. Women with chorioamnionitis are four times more likely to have a baby with cerebral palsy, while the presence of other infections, such as chlamydia and some respiratory infections double cerebral palsy diagnoses.
Lack of oxygen: The brain may not develop correctly when a fetus does not receive adequate oxygen. This condition is called hypoxia, and it may cause permanent damage. Up to 10% of cerebral palsy diagnoses are a result of hypoxia.
Jaundice: Commonly thought to be a minor condition, uncontrolled jaundice can eventually lead to brain damage. If bilirubin (the substance that causes a jaundiced baby to appear yellow) builds up in the infant’s skull, it can leak into the brain. Unfortunately, bilirubin is extremely toxic to the brain, and prolonged exposure can lead to cerebral palsy.
Placenta complications: Problems with the placenta can impact the baby’s ability to receive adequate blood, oxygen and nutrients. If the placenta detaches from the uterine wall or completely covers the cervix or uterus, brain damage can occur.
Through the use of prenatal care and monitoring, most of the above problems can be avoided. Similarly, physicians should monitor the baby for distress signs during labor and delivery. If C-sections are delayed, maternal infections aren’t treated, or proper fetal monitoring isn’t performed, the physician may be liable for medical malpractice.
If you believe your child’s cerebral palsy is a result of medical negligence, our experienced medical malpractice attorneys can help. Cerebral palsy diagnoses can create an overwhelm of medical bills, missed work, and severe emotional trauma. Additionally, you may be facing the expenses of lifetime care for your child. At Berkowitz and Hanna LLC, our highly skilled team of medical malpractice attorneys works tirelessly to get you the compensation you deserve, so that you can focus on the health of your child. Contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC today for a free consultation about your case.