Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a variety of chronic conditions that affect body movement and muscle coordination. It is caused by a lack of oxygen to a baby’s brain before, during, or right after the birth process. Fetuses and infants are extremely susceptible to the types of predicaments that result in a lack of oxygen, such as the wrapping of the umbilical cord around the neck.
The lack of oxygen to the brain creates a disruption in brain development, resulting in brain damage. The severity of the cerebral palsy, which adversely affects a child’s ability to coordinate muscle and body movements, varies depending on the amount of harm caused to the brain. The disabilities may be lifelong.
Mistakes & Injuries That May Cause Cerebral Palsy
In many cases of cerebral palsy in infants, the condition is congenital; and parents and doctors may never determine the cause. In other cases, however, the development of cerebral palsy may be the direct result of medical malpractice or injury to the baby before, during, or following infant’s delivery.
Some instances of medical malpractice mistakes and injuries that cause cerebral palsy include:
- Failure to monitor vital signs of fetus and mother during the delivery
- Delayed C-Section
- Dispensing incorrect doses of anesthesia to the mother during labor and delivery or to the infant following delivery
- Failure to properly respond to fetal distress
- Failure to secure a proper airway for the baby to receive enough oxygen
Our caring and knowledgeable medical malpractice attorneys counsel and represent the families of children whose cerebral palsy was caused by the medical malpractice of physicians and other medical care providers. Contact us so we can discuss your case.
Early Warning Signs
Often with cerebral palsy, there are early warning signs that should alert obstetricians, surgeons, and other healthcare providers to possible problems. These red flags include:
- A premature birth is a known risk factor for the development of cerebral palsy in infants; and the risk is directly correlated with how premature the baby is born. (The more premature, the higher the risk).
- A low birth weight (less than 5 ½ pounds) is also a factor known to increase a baby’s chances of developing cerebral palsy. The risk of cerebral palsy increases as the birth weight decreases.
- Babies born breech (i.e., feet first) experience an increased risk of developing cerebral palsy because of the physical obstructions that may create a lack of oxygen to the brain.
- The delivery of multiple babies increases the risk of one or more babies developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Cerebral Palsy: Types & Symptoms
In many cases, a family may have no idea that their child developed cerebral palsy during the birth process. It is only when the infant or toddler exhibits notable delays in development and in reaching milestones that the possibility of cerebral palsy is considered. In these cases, babies may have trouble holding their head upright, difficulties rolling over, sitting, etc.
There are multiple classifications of cerebral palsy, and children may exhibit symptoms of one or more types:
- Spastic cerebral palsy: The most common form of cerebral palsy is characterized by incredible muscle tightness that causes uncontrollable jerks and twitches. Spastic cerebral palsy may affect one or more limbs as well as the torso.
- Athetoid cerebral palsy: 20% of those with cerebral palsy have athetoid cerebral palsy, which affects the whole body. Individuals with this type of cerebral palsy exhibit uncontrollable movements predominantly in the form of squirming and twisting. These involuntary movements increase in number and severity during times of emotional distress.
- Ataxic cerebral palsy: The least common form of cerebral palsy. Ataxic cerebral palsy is primarily characterized by muscle weakness that causes a person’s extreme lack of coordination, difficulty maintaining balance, and poor depth perception.
A person with cerebral palsy may experience a number of symptoms, including the following:
- Atypical muscle tone: Muscles may be too stiff or very weak, both of which hinder normal movement.
- Increased and sudden muscle movement: Muscles may twitch and unexpectedly move. Reflects are exaggerated.
- Poor muscle coordination: Delayed and/or partial development of fine motor skills can lead to difficulties performing tasks that require agility, nimble fingers, and coordinated muscle control.
- Seizures: In more severe instances of cerebral palsy, individuals (especially children) may suffer seizures sporadically or frequently.
- Hearing, vision and/or speech problems
The Effects of Cerebral Palsy May Last a Lifetime
All of the symptoms listed above can have lasting effects on the body, causing additional medical conditions down the road, including:
- Learning disabilities: Many of the physical symptoms experienced by a child may lead to various learning disabilities.
- Malnutrition: Abnormal muscle function may make it difficult for a person to swallow or digest food. This can result in malnutrition, weak bones, and stunted growth.
- Osteoarthritis: Over time, continued muscle spasticity creates harmful pressure on joints, which may lead to osteoarthritis.
- Contracture: Years of severe muscle spasms can result in the shortening and hardening of tendons and muscles, which in turn may lead to deformed and rigid joints.
- Mental health issues and mental retardation
Contact an Attorney to Discuss Warning Signs of Cerebral Palsy
If your child has been diagnosed with some form of cerebral palsy and you believe medical malpractice is the cause, you owe it your child and yourself to explore your options. Discuss your case with a reputable, experienced attorney who specializes in representing clients in birth injury cases.
Your child may require medical treatment for cerebral palsy for the rest of his or her life, including expensive therapies, medications, and the need for special equipment and home modifications.