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Cerebral Palsy – Birth Injury

Every year, 2-3% of infants born in the United States are diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP). Cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage and is described as an impairment of the body’s ability to control movement and posture.  Research shows that cerebral palsy results from an abnormal development of a child’s brain or injury to a baby’s brain occurring in the moments prior to birth or shortly after delivery.

Cerebral palsy is one of the most serious birth injuries that may occur as a result of medical malpractice. It can affect both motor coordination and cognition due to brain damage in the parts of the brain that control movement and injury to the higher functioning parts of the brain, respectively. Both injuries can range from mild to severe and often a child will have some combination of both physical and mental injury. Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive condition, which means that, although injury to the brain is permanent, there will be no further degeneration of the brain.  Extensive therapies may help with the symptoms of cerebral palsy and are usually needed for the entire life of a child.

Cerebral palsy is often caused by a lack of oxygen and blood flow to a baby’s brain during labor and delivery, also known as hypoxia-ischemia. Other prenatal and postnatal events associated with an increased likelihood of CP include maternal or fetal stroke, traumatic delivery, improper use of a vacuum or forceps, premature delivery, or maternal or fetal infection.  In each of these situations, prudent doctors, nurses and other health care professionals have a number of opportunities to prevent serious, permanent, and devastating neurological and physical injuries to children born with CP.

There are two major types of cerebral palsy for which an infant may be diagnosed. The first is known as spastic cerebral palsy. This is the most common type of cerebral palsy. Signs that a child may have this type of cerebral palsy include exaggerated reflexes and increased muscle tone. The second is known as non-spastic cerebral palsy where a child will exhibit decreased or fluctuating muscle tone.  There are multiple forms of non-spastic cerebral palsy wherein a child demonstrates involuntary movements.  Ataxic cerebral palsy will manifest as uncoordinated voluntary muscle movements, problems with balance and speech delay. Dyskinetic athetoid cerebral palsy consists of slow, smooth, writhing movements that involve distal muscles, such as those in the arms, hands, legs and feet. Dyskinetic dystonia cerebral palsy encompasses cases that affect the trunk muscles resulting in a fixed, twisted position. 

Characteristics associated with a potential birth injury claim include an admission into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for 5 days or longer; the use of head or body cooling after birth; seizure activities; and signs on early CT scans and MRIs. Early signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy include:

Often, cerebral palsy can go undetected for months or even years as the injury becomes more noticeable as a child grows older.  Although cerebral palsy is a permanent condition, studies have shown that under the right care, children with cerebral palsy can improve their symptoms and experience a normal life expectancy.

If your child is affected by cerebral palsy as a result of malpractice, let us help you take legal action against those responsible for your child’s cerebral palsy.  Our expert birth injury attorneys can help you.  Call us at 877-262-9767 to discuss your situation.

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