Understanding Cerebral Palsy: Spastic Cerebral Palsy Explained
When parents are told for the first time that their infant has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, they can be overwhelmed with emotions and questions. They might be wondering, just what is cerebral palsy (CP)? What is spastic cerebral palsy? How did this happen to my child? What kind of special care may my child need throughout their lifetime? Are we prepared to provide this care? And importantly, could this birth injury have been prevented?
Estimates from the United Cerebral Palsy Association indicate that that more than 760,000 people in the Unites States are living with cerebral palsy in one of its several forms. Sometimes infants are diagnosed at birth, but not always. As babies fail to reach the usual milestones such as rolling over or walking, the diagnosis can come later.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
The CDC defines cerebral palsy in its most basic form. The CDC notes that cerebral palsy comes from the Latin word cerebral meaning brain, and palsy meaning weakness. Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term that neurologists and pediatricians use to describe a condition (or a group of conditions) that cover several movement disorders when certain portions of the brain are damaged. Those portions of the brain contain neuron paths that send messages telling the baby to move. Sometimes this brain damage can happen when the baby is still developing within the mother’s womb (in utero) from an infection, or lack of proper pre-natal care.
Other times the unborn baby may suffer from birth hypoxia, a condition when the brain does not get enough oxygen. Ischemic strokes are another peril that may develop during pregnancy (or right after birth) resulting in cerebral palsy, because a blood clot block has blocked one of the baby’s vessels in the portion of the brain that controls movement. Unfortunately, delivery trauma resulting from the use of forceps or vacuum extractors can lead to brain damage and ensuing cerebral palsy as well.
Prognosis of Cerebral Palsy
This type of birth injury is permanent, and it cannot be reversed. Even though the brain damage itself will not progress beyond this initial phase, your child will have movement impairment for a lifetime. There are treatments that can help lessen the symptoms. With early intervention, a child may go from using a wheelchair to using a walker. Depending upon the severity and location of the brain damage, that impairment could range from the mild end of the spectrum (maybe your child will have some problems walking and trying to toss a ball at the same time) to severe (perhaps they will need help sitting upright and must use motorized wheelchair).
Why Cerebral Palsy Requires a Lawyer’s Help
There are four types of cerebral palsies, the most common of which is called “spastic” cerebral palsy. If your child suffers from spastic cerebral palsy resulting from a birth injury, or any other form of cerebral palsy, then you will want to ask one of our experienced Portland cerebral palsy attorneys at Kuhlman Law review your case, to protect your family’s rights and your child’s rights. This case review is free and at no risk to you.
It is important to hire our experienced Portland medical malpractice attorney to review your case in order to determine whether your child’s birth injury could have been the result of a medical error, and that your child’s lifetime of suffering could have been prevented. It’s true that many healthcare providers do their very best to protect the health of our children, but it is also true that some make mistakes. And those mistakes can be negligent, careless, and reckless, not to mention costly. There are more adults living today with cerebral palsy than children, and the CDC estimates that the lifetime costs for someone with cerebral palsy (across all levels of severity) is about $1.5 million. Our compassionate Portland medical malpractice lawyer can help you to understand if your child suffered an Oregon birth injury that was a result of a medical error and could have been presented.
Four Types of Cerebral Palsy to Know
Cerebral palsy is the umbrella term covering four other specific types of palsies that impair a body’s movement. There are different symptoms depending on the type of cerebral palsy. An infant or very young child is diagnosed with a specific palsy depending upon the exact location of brain damage, and the severity of the brain damage, because different parts of the brain contain neuron paths that have to do with sending messages telling the baby’s body which parts to move.
Those four categories are spastic cerebral palsy, dyskinetic cerebral palsy, ataxic cerebral palsy, and mixed cerebral palsy. Where the brain sustained birth injury, the seriousness of the birth injury, and the duration of the birth injury will determine if the child’s cerebral palsy will be described as mild, moderate, or severe. That determination may also provide an indication of how much care someone will need throughout their lifetime.
Listed here is a general overview of those four general categories of cerebral palsy:
Spastic cerebral palsy – This is the most common type of cerebral palsy, and results from damage to the brain’s motor cortex. It’s commonly referred to as “stiff” cerebral palsy, because someone’s movements appear to be jerky or stiff. Spastic CP has three subcategories that are further defined by the location of the brain injury and it’s the effect on the body’s movements.
Dyskinetic cerebral palsy- This second most common form of cerebral palsy is also known as dystonic, athetoid, and choreoathetoid CP. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy may be a result of birth injury if brain’s basal ganglia are damaged because the baby’s brain was oxygen starved during a stroke or other birth injury. Children with dyskinetic cerebral palsy suffer from involuntary and uncontrolled movements that they do not want to make, such as slow writhing, twisting, and shaking. These symptoms appear to worsen with stress and seem to disappear during sleep.
Ataxic cerebral palsy – This is the rarest of all the cerebral palsies. It is sometimes referred to as “shaky” CP. When the cerebellum (the brain’s balance and coordination center) sustains a birth injury, the result may be ataxic cerebral palsy. The name is derived from the Greek “a” meaning without, and “taxic” meaning arrangement or order. Ataxic CP children may have a hard time grasping or gripping something like a pen or pencil because of the shaking. They might have trouble swallowing or have reflux issues. They often display wide spread legs for better balance when standing. It would take longer for a medical professional to diagnosis this condition as compared to the other forms of cerebral palsy because the symptoms are less apparent in infants.
Mixed cerebral palsy – Possibly the most devastating of the cerebral palsies, this represents brain injury to all three major parts of the brain that govern movement: the motor cortex, the basal ganglia, and the cerebellum. This means that a child suffering from mixed cerebral palsy may be displaying symptoms from spastic CP, dyskinetic CP, and ataxic CP at the same time or at different times.
Focusing on Spastic Cerebral Palsy: What is It?
When the brain’s motor cortex is damaged, the result can be spastic cerebral palsy, which is the most common type of cerebral palsy. The motor cortex is the part of the brain responsible for sending messages to the body about planned voluntary movements, like walking. Hypertonia, or too much muscle tone and buildup, is one of the most obvious signs of spastic cerebral palsy. The resulting stiff muscles and joints make it difficult, if not impossible, for someone to move.
It’s commonly referred to as “stiff” cerebral palsy, because someone’s movements appear to be jerky or stiff. Our experienced medical malpractice Portland lawyer should review birth injuries that result in a spastic cerebral palsy diagnosis. Without medical assistance, a family will find it difficult to manage a loved one’s care because of the wide range of disabilities associated with this birth injury, injuries that will last a lifetime.
When damage is caused to the still developing motor cortex during birth and shortly thereafter, the result can be spastic cerebral palsy. That birth injury may be from delivery trauma, where a medical professional used forceps or a vacuum extractor in a negligent, careless, or reckless way.
The amount of movement trouble that an infant sustains in a birth injury resulting in spastic cerebral palsy varies from person to person. Although each person is unique, there are many movement symptoms that are common depending upon the severity of birth injury damage. Those include problems walking, standing up, speaking, reflux and digestion issues, drooling, loss of fine motor skills, getting in and out of bed, and many activities of daily living.
Three Categories of Spastic Cerebral Palsy
Spastic cerebral palsy comes in three general categories, with each corresponding to its own symptoms depending upon which part of the brain sustained birth injury. For example, voluntary and involuntary movement messages are sent to different areas in the brain. If that area is damaged or underdeveloped, the message may not be properly received. The three types of spastic cerebral palsy include the following:
- Spastic Diplegia/diparesis – “Di” means two and “plegia” is Greek for paralysis. In spastic diplegia, corresponding parts on both sides of the body are affected, however the legs are usually more severely impacted than the arms. If both legs or thighs are overactive, the result could be a “scissor” gait. This is when someone walks slowly and the knees and thighs cross or hit each other in a scissor like fashion. Another example of spastic diplegia is when someone walks on their tippy toes.
- Spastic hemiplegia/hemiparesis – “Hemi” comes from the Greek for half, meaning that one half of the body is affected. In spastic hemiplegia, the still developing cerebral cortex was damaged possibly from oxygen deprivation sustained during a stroke. Because the body’s muscles are constantly contracted, they rarely have a chance to rest. This constant tension on the muscles makes them very stiff and rigid.
- Spastic quadriplegia/quadriparasis – “Quad” comes from the Latin meaning four, meaning that all four limbs have been damaged in spastic quadriplegia. The arms and legs, while not paralyzed, may be hard to control and a powered wheelchair may be necessary. Even though the name refers to the four limbs, other parts of the body may be affected, such a bladder and bowel control. Of all the forms of spastic cerebral palsy, spastic quadriplegia is the most severe and the symptoms will be apparent while the child is still in infancy and can include seizures. Intellectual disabilities, speech problems, and not walking will become apparent later. If a child has sustained an Oregon birth injury that resulted in spastic quadriplegia, then parents should have our experienced Portland lawyer review the medical records as soon as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions About Spastic Cerebral Palsy
1) How long do I have to file a birth injury claim in Oregon?
It depends on a lot of factors. A time limit on filing a claim is known as the statute of limitations period. This time limit is mandatory and requires a victim to file a claim within this time period otherwise a court may automatically dismiss the case. Even an egregious case of Oregon medical malpractice causing cerebral palsy could be procedurally dismissed. It is imperative that all claims are filed without the statute of limitations period for this reason. Since there are some rules which extend this time period, and other rules with shrink this time period, always ask our law firm for help on when you can file a claim.
2) What could I recover for a cerebral palsy case in Oregon?
Like other personal injury cases, families who have a child that suffered serious personal injuries in a cerebral palsy case may be entitled to “damages.” Under Oregon law, damages are a measure of relief that a victim may recover which include compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills, future medical bills, nursing care, inability to ever work, loss of enjoyment of life, medical equipment such as mobility equipment, modifications of a home or vehicle, loss of consortium and relationship with family including parents and siblings, and other damages due to the medical malpractice.
3) Do I need to prove a birth injury case “beyond a reasonable doubt” in Oregon?
No, you do not. The beyond a reasonable doubt standard, which has been popularized by television shows or news reports on sensational trials, is just the standard for criminal verdict and some rare civil burdens of proof. But that is not the standard of care for medical malpractice cases. That care is a preponderance of the evidence which requires a victim and his or her family to demonstrate that the defendant was likely negligence by 51% or more. This means that a plaintiff needs to only prove that a defendant was more likely than not the cause of the injury, and that a plaintiff only needs to persuade a jury that the defendant was likely the case. This is a much lower standard and fairer to the victim, but it also means that that defendant only has to prove that he or she was only 49% or less at fault, or that another cause was more likely than not the cause of the birth injury.
4) What if my doctor told me that my child’s cerebral palsy was “genetic” or a “natural complication”?
That is very common and does not mean anything! Doctors and healthcare providers recognize how damaging and devastating a diagnosis of cerebral palsy can be. They know that cerebral palsy is a very serious type of birth injury. This means that a doctor or healthcare provider could lose his or her license or get hit we hefty fines, penalties, or verdicts. Thus, a doctor or healthcare provider is more likely to blame cerebral palsy on something other than the defendant’s conduct. This means that common lies like genetic or natural complications are used to defer attention away from the healthcare provider and to even misdirect a family. Essentially, it is a lie. Especially because knowing what really caused cerebral palsy can be very difficult without other experts to review it. This is why a family must always ask our birth injury lawyer for help with any type of cerebral palsy case in Oregon.
5) How much does a cerebral palsy lawyer cost in Oregon?
Nothing upfront! Our cerebral palsy lawyer accepts cases on a contingency fee agreement. This means that there is no upfront cost to hire our lawyer or law firm. Victims and their families only pay us a percentage of what we recover for them after we recover it for them in a settlement or court award. We also front all costs of litigation including court fees, medical record costs, and expert expenses which we only recover once we recover compensation from a defendant.
Families with a Child Who Has Spastic Cerebral Palsy Due to Oregon Birth Injuries Should Ask Our Portland Birth Injury Lawyers to Review the Medical Records
If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice contact the Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Kuhlman Law at our number below or fill out the intake form. We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover.
Our law firm handles cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Central Oregon, Sisters, Madras, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, La Grande, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Pendleton, Cottage Grove, Florence, Oregon City, Springfield, Keizer, Grants Pass, McMinnville, Tualatin, West Linn, Forest Grove, Wilsonville, Newberg, Roseburg, Lake Oswego, Klamath Falls, Happy Valley, Tigard, Ashland, Milwakie, Coos Bay, The Dalles, St. Helens, Sherwood, Central Point, Canby, Troutdale, Hermiston, Silverton, Hood River, Newport, Prineville, Astoria, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Hillsboro, and Vancouver, Washington.
We also have an office in Minneapolis, Minnesota and take medical malpractice cases throughout the Twin Cities, including St. Paul, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County, Washington County, Anoka County, Scott County, Blaine, Stillwater, and Saint Paul Minnesota.