About Cerebral Palsy Birth Injuries
A child’s cerebral palsy diagnosis is one of the most devastating diagnoses that a parent can receive after a difficult birth. Most parents are immediately concerned about what the future holds for their child, and how they can afford the necessary support through childhood and into adulthood. The special needs of a child with cerebral palsy can be overwhelming at times, but there are resources available to parents who need help and answers.
Causes of cerebral palsy
Although the most apparent symptoms of cerebral palsy are impaired movement and motor function, those impairments begin because of an injury to the brain. There are many different types of injuries that can cause cerebral palsy, including difficult labor that causes lack of oxygen to the brain, head trauma, meningitis and infection.
Some babies have a higher risk of developing cerebral palsy. Babies who are born premature or with a low birth rate are more likely to have cerebral palsy. Studies also indicate that mothers over age 40 or under age 20 have a higher chance of delivering a baby who has cerebral palsy.
Children diagnosed with cerebral palsy after birth often have other medical conditions, including seizure disorders, developmental delays, and feeding problems.
Cerebral Palsy Statistics
- One in every 278 children has some type of cerebral palsy
- 764,000 people in the United States have cerebral palsy
- 8,000 children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy every year in the United States
- 30% of children with cerebral palsy have a seizure disorder
- Proper care of a child with cerebral palsy may require $6 million or more
Medical malpractice causing cerebral palsy injuries
Cerebral palsy has many causes, including medical mistakes. Some preventable cerebral palsy injuries are caused by:
- Failure to order a timely cesarean section, causing long-term oxygen deprivation to the baby’s brain
- Failure to treat meningitis
Types of cerebral palsy injuries
- Spastic Cerebral Palsy: 70% of children with cerebral palsy have the spastic variety. It is characterized by underdeveloped limbs with contractures (characterized by rigidity of joints). Children may have hemiplegia (spasticity on one side of the body); paraplegia (affects the legs); diplegia (impairs either both arms or both legs); or quadriplegia (all four limbs are impaired).
- Athetoid Cerebral Palsy: 20% of children with cerebral palsy have Athetoid cerebral palsy. It is usually characterized by slow and involuntary movements of the extremities.
- Ataxic Cerebral Palsy: about 10% of children with cerebral palsy have Ataxic cerebral palsy. It is characterized by weakness, lack of coordination and difficulty with fine motor skills.
- Mixed Cerebral Palsy: Some children have multiple types of cerebral palsy.
Diagnosing and treating cerebral palsy
Cerebral palsy cannot be diagnosed immediately after birth—most pediatricians agree that it takes until about age two or three before a physician has enough information to determine whether a child has cerebral palsy. Some signs that doctors look for are:
- Poor head control
- Poor sucking or feeding
- Motor development delays
- Limpness or stiffness in the joints
Though every child develops at a different pace, when some of these symptoms appear, doctors will closely scrutinize the child’s milestones to determine if the child has cerebral palsy. Though the diagnosis can be made clinically based on the child’s symptoms and behavior, there are also tests that can assist in that diagnosis:
- Intelligence tests: to measure brain impairment
- MRI: to determine if the brain has abnormalities in the white matter and motor cortex
- Electroencephalogram (EEG): to test brain waves in a search for evidence of seizure disorders
Cerebral palsy is not a disease, and there is no cure. However, there are time-tested therapies and treatments, as well as exciting new medical developments. Children with cerebral palsy can benefit from a team of doctors and other health care professionals, including orthopedists, psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, pediatric neurologists, and social workers. A child’s quality of life can improve with therapy, mobility aids, and even assistive communication devices. In every cerebral palsy lawsuit, our lawyers work with medical experts who create a comprehensive Life Care Plan detailing the medicine, surgeries, therapies and adaptive equipment that your child will need now and into the future.
Surgery can sometimes help to loosen up the limbs and prevent worsening contractures. Repeated physical therapy can help children to train their bodies to perform ordinary tasks that are made difficult by their condition.
What can I expect for my child?
Children with cerebral palsy can be loving, intelligent and successful. Some forms of cerebral palsy are mild, while others are more severe. However, every child should be allowed to reach his or her full potential. Access to innovative medical technologies and specialists will allow them to reach that potential.
Resources for Parents
No parent who cares for a child with cerebral palsy is alone. There are governmental resources, support groups and extensive resources that provide information and help to families. Here are some of the resources we’ve collected.
- Handicap license plates
- Respite Care
- Support Groups
Was my child’s cerebral palsy caused by medical malpractice?
If your child has a cerebral palsy injury and you would like to know if that injury could have been prevented by your doctor, contact our medical malpractice attorneys at (855) 712-7818 or online for a free consultation. Your child may be entitled to money that can pay for your child’s medical care and therapies.
For More Information
- Kennedy Krieger Institute: specializing in cerebral palsy research and treatment of children with cerebral palsy