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Cerebral Palsy

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if your son or daughter has cerebral palsy and you suspect that medical malpractice may have been involved.

General Information About Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a condition involving a group of disorders that affects the child's ability to control his or her own movement. The effects depend on which areas of the brain are damaged. The effects of Cerebral Palsy may include:

  • Mental Retardation;
  • Seizures;
  • Impairment of Speech, Hearing or Sight;
  • Abnormal Perception and Sensation;
  • Problems in Gait and Mobility;
  • Involuntary Movement; and
  • Muscle Spasm or Tightness.
Cerebral palsy is usually a lifelong disability.

Unfortunately, Cerebral palsy occurs all too often:

  • Approximately 2 to 4 out of every 1000 new births have Cerebral Palsy;
  • At least 5000 infants and toddlers are diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year;
  • At least 1,200 - 1,500 preschoolers are diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year; and
  • Approximately 500,000 people in the U.S. have cerebral palsy.

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy results from an injury to the the part of the brain called the cerebrum. This is the largest portion of the brain. It is involved with higher mental faculties, sensations, and voluntary muscle activities. Cerebral palsy can result from an injury to the brain before, during, or after birth. Any condition that impedes a child's breathing could lead to Cerebral Palsy. The most significant birthing complication related to Cerebral Palsy is severe asphyxia, a lack of oxygen to the brain. This can happen when:

  • The child's breathing is restricted by the umbilical cord.
  • The baby becomes stuck in the birth canal or the placenta is prematurely ruptured. When this happens, a doctor must make an immediate decision to order a C-section in order to prevent conditions that could lead to Cerebral Palsy.
  • The baby does not begin breathing immediately after birth.
Without oxygen, the baby's brain cells start to die causing brain damage. Half of the infants who suffered severe asphyxia during birth develop Cerebral Palsy. Thus, it is critical for doctors to prevent asphyxia and make sure that an infant's breathing is normal.

Other complications that can result in cerebral palsy include:

  • Infection during pregnancy, including measles, rubella, cytomegalovirus and toxoplasmosis;
  • Jaundice in the infant that can damage the infant's brain cells; and
  • Rh incompatibility that can lead to the production of antibodies by the mother's body that destroy the fetus's blood cells, and can lead a form of jaundice in the newborn

Approximately 10 to 20 percent of children who have cerebral palsy acquire the disorder after birth. Cerebral palsy may occur during early infancy as a result of cerebral injury caused by such factors as:

  • illnesses, including encephalitis, meningitis, and herpes simplex infections;
  • head injury during birth resulting in subdural hematoma; and
  • blood vessel injuries.
Cerebral palsy can also be caused later in life by head injury following an accident.

Cerebral Palsy Risk Factors

There are certain risk factors that, if present, indicate an increased likelihood that the child will later be diagnosed with cerebral palsy. These risk factors include:

  • Fetal Distress - Complications during labor and delivery, such as vascular or respiratory problems of the baby during labor and delivery may result in brain damage causing permanent brain damage that results in cerebral palsy.
  • Breech presentation - Babies that present feet first, instead of head first, at the beginning of labor are at a higher risk of developing cerebral palsy.
  • Multiple births - Twins, triplets, and other multiple births have an increased risk of cerebral palsy.
  • Maternal bleeding or severe proteinuria (the presence of excess proteins in the urine)late in pregnancy result in a higher risk of having a baby with cerebral palsy.
  • Maternal hyperthyroidism, mental retardation, or seizures increase the risk for cerebral palsy.
  • The mother's water was ruptured for over 24 hours
  • There were indications of trauma or infection during the pregnancy
  • There is a family history brain damage
When these or other warning signs are present, doctors and health care providers should take immediate steps to properly monitor the unborn baby, to treat the cause of any complication that has arisen, and, where necessary, to deliver the baby (usually by cesarean).

Once the baby is born, there are additional risk factors that indicate the baby is at risk of having or developing cerebral palsy and should be closely monitored and treated. They might also suggest improper medical care, or trauma to the baby's brain during the birthing process. These include

  • The baby receives a low score on the Apgar test
  • The baby has a low birth weight
  • The baby was born premature
  • The baby develops seizures
  • Tbe baby exhibits nervous system malformations
  • The baby has difficulty sucking and swallowing
  • The baby shows signs of weakness or abnormal muscle tone
  • The baby's skin is blue birth
  • The baby needs resuscitation at, or shortly after birth because he/she is not breathing
  • The baby shows signs of apnea (breath holding)
  • The baby shows decreased signs of arousability
  • The infant has problems maintaining temperature after birth
  • The cordPH is low indicating the presence of metabolic acidosis
  • There was meconium (fecal) staining on the baby at the time of delivery.

Signs A Baby Might Have Cerebral Palsy

While a diagnosis of cerebral palsy might not be made until a child is one or two years old, there are certain signs which may indicate cerebral palsy if they occur shortly after birth. These include:

  • Difficult sucking or swallowing,
  • Keeping the body floppy or very stiff, and
  • Seizures.

As the child becomes older he or she may also

  • Not respond to sudden noises or familiar voices,
  • Not follow objects with his or her eyes,
  • Not hold his or head up,
  • Not roll over,
  • Not sit up without support
  • Not crawl normally, or
  • Not walk normally.
The child might also reject food by pushing it out with his or her tongue and may show as trong preference for one hand or side over the other.

Diagnosing Cerebral Palsy

There are a number of tests that can help with the diagnosis of cerebral palsy and can help determine the type and extent. These include:

  • Neurological examination
  • Feeding and swallowing studies
  • Gait analysis
  • Electrocephalogram
  • Imaging studies such as X-Rays, MRI and Ct-scan
  • Genetic studies
  • Metabolic testing

The child may be affected by any of the following types of Cerebral palsy:

  • Spastic Cerebral Palsy which causes difficult and stiff movements;
  • Ataxic Cerebral Palsy which causes loss of depth perception and sense of balance;
  • Athetoid Cerebral Palsy which causes uncontrolled and involuntary movements; and
  • Mixed Cerebral Palsy which causes symptoms of more than one of the above three types.

Treatment for Cerebral Palsy

Children with cerebral palsy generally require life-long care. The type of care depends on many factors and can include

  • Medication
    • antispasmodics
    • anticonvulsants
    • anticholingerics
  • Physical and Occupational Therapy
  • Speech and Communication Therapy
  • Swallowing Therapy
  • Non Surgical Modalities
    • Seating/Positioning Aids
    • Orthodics
    • Communication aids
    • Other assistive technologies
  • Orthopedic and/or neurological surgery

In addition to medical care children with cerebral palsy there will be a need to develop an education plan and a life plan.

Cerebral Palsy and Medical Malpractice

Many cases of cerebral palsy are preventable. There are a number of failures on the part of doctors, nurses, and other health care providers that can lead to oxygen deprivation which in turn results in the baby suffering cerebral palsy. These include.

  • Failure to diagnose and manage risk factors,
  • Failure to diagnose and react to fetal distress,
  • failure to handle umbilical cord complications,
  • Failure to diagnose and take appropriate action for a placental abruption,
  • Failure to diagnose and treat maternal infections,
  • Failure to perform an emergency C-section in a timely fashion,
  • Failure to diagnose and treat seizures in a newborn,
  • Failure to diagnose and treat meningitis or jaundice in a newborn, and
  • Failure to use forceps or vacuum extraction properly

If your son or daughter has cerebral palsy and you suspect that the cerebral palsy resulted because a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider failed to provide adequate care during the pregnancy, during labor and delivery, or after the delivery of your baby, you should immediately contact a lawyer.

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Law Office of Joseph A. Hernandez, P.C.
Phone: (866) 461-9400
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