Understanding Ataxic Cerebral Palsy: Portland Birth Injury Lawyers

oregon birth injury lawyers understanding cerebral palsy dyskinetic cerebral palsy ataxic cerebral palsy

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy: Portland Birth Injury Lawyers in Oregon Explain What it is and How it Affects a Child

When you begin to notice that your infant is not responding to your voice with their eyes or by turning their head to follow you, you might wonder if this is normal. When you baby celebrates their first birthday and they cannot yet stand, you are concerned that they missed this important milestone in their development. Why? Could this be the result of a birth injury? Could it be cerebral palsy?  There are four types of cerebral palsies, the rarest form is called “Ataxic” cerebral palsy. If your baby suffers from Ataxic cerebral palsy resulting from a traumatic birth injury, then you will want to ask one of our experienced Portland birth injury lawyers to review your case, to protect your family’s rights and your child’s rights. This case review is at no risk to you, because it is free at our Oregon law firm.

What is Cerebral Palsy 

Cerebral palsy is an umbrella terms that refers to several types of movement disorders in the brain. “Cerebral” means brain, and “palsy” means weakness. The Centers for Disease Control reports that about 1 in 323 children is diagnosed with one form of CP.

Causes of CP 

Cerebral palsy happens when the movement centers within the brain are either underdeveloped, or damaged. Ataxic CP can be the result of:

  • Infections during pregnancy (such as German measles (rubella) and cytomegalovirus (CMV), causing the mother’s immune system to release proteins that not only attack the infection, but also cause inflammation in the baby’s brain which interferes with development. 
  • Jaundice and kernicterus
  • Low birthweight 
  • Premature birth
  • Multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.)
  • Uterine rupture, and
  • Medical malpractice or negligence.

Common Ways Medical Malpractice Causes Cerebral Palsy 

When a doctor or healthcare provider fails to meet his or her required burden of providing satisfactory medical services to a patient, it could be medical malpractice in Oregon.  A doctor is required to act as a reasonably prudent doctor would have in similar circumstances considering the doctors skill, experience, and knowledge.  A healthcare provider who fails to do so could be acting below the standard of care which means that a provider is negligent.  Negligence is when an individual exposes another to reckless, careless, or unnecessary risks of harm which could have been avoided with reasonable and appropriate conduct.

In terms of birth injuries and medical malpractice in Oregon, some of the most common cases of Ataxic cerebral palsy due to medical malpractice includes the following:

  • Birth hypoxia (when the brain does not get enough oxygen)
  • Birth anoxia (when the brain does not get any oxygen)
  • Ischemic strokes (a blood clot blocks a vessel in the brain)
  • Lack of property pre-natal care
  • Inappropriate use of forceps or vacuum extractors
  • Delays in a c-section
  • Overdose of medications or drugs, including Pitocin
  • Mishandling of the baby
  • Failure to timely resuscitate a baby, and
  • Other types of very serious personal injuries to a newborn.

Types of CP

There are four categories of cerebral palsy, including spastic cerebral palsy, dyskinetic cerebral palsy, Ataxic cerebral palsy, and mixed cerebral palsy. An infant or 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.  That diagnosis may also provide an idea of how much care is needed in their lifetime.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

Ataxic cerebral palsy appears in only about five percent of the cerebral palsy cases, making it the rarest form of the disease. Because people with Ataxic cerebral palsy often appear to shake, the disease is often referred to as the “shaky” CP. This is because the disease takes its name from the ancient Greeks, who combined two words into one  by adding “a” (meaning without), and “taxic” (meaning order or arrangement). Palsy was the Greek word for muscle weakness.

We refer to these types of uncoordinated movements or shaking as Ataxic, because looks as if the body’s movements have no order or plan, or the movements lack any arrangement.

There are three main parts of the brain dedicated to a body’s movements. The section that is responsible for the body’s balance and coordination is called the cerebellum. If a baby suffers a traumatic birth injury during pregnancy, delivery, or birth, and the cerebellum is damaged, then it may result in Ataxic cerebral palsy. The baby’s balance and coordination movements could range from mild (finding it difficult to grasp the mother’s fingers) to severe (trouble swallowing). Children will suffer a range of impairments, and different degrees of impairments, according to the amount of damage to the cerebellum, and the time of length it  was damaged. 

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 widespread legs for better balance when standing. It would take longer for a medical professional to diagnosis Ataxic CP when compared to the other forms of cerebral palsy because the symptoms are not as obvious in infants, because children less than a year old might not have yet developed the skill of holding or gripping something in their hands.

Symptoms of Ataxic Cerebral 

There are common symptoms shared by children with Ataxic CP, but their severity varies with each person. These include: 

  • An unsteady gait with feet widespread 
  • Poor balance and hand/eye coordination
  • Trouble with fine motor skills
  • Slow or jerky speech
  • Tremors
  • Slow eye movements

Diagnosing Ataxic CP

Diagnosing a child with Ataxic CP usually takes place before the age of two but can go until the age of four. If the infant suffered a traumatic birth injury or had other risk factors such as being born prematurely, then a health care provider will be on alert for the signs and indications of Ataxic CP. This will consist of both a physical and a neurological exam.

Because there is not a single test that can diagnose a child with Ataxic CP, it is necessary to look to other milestones in a child’s development for reference. Those milestones begin at birth and continue until about three years and include language and communication skills, social and emotional development, and movement and physical development. 

Here are some of those milestones that our Portland Ataxic cerebral palsy lawyers want you to know about:

From birth, does your baby respond to your voice by turning their head towards you?

Around four months of age, does your baby have good head control or try to grasp toys with two hands?

At 12 months, does your baby call you “mama” or can stand alone?

At 18 months, can your baby point to its nose when asked or can run?

At 24 months, your baby should begin to speak in short sentences, or kick a ball.

At 36 months, your baby should be daytime potty trained and can do a simple puzzle.

Your health care provider will also be carefully watching your baby’s physical growth, including muscle movements, reflexes, and muscle tone. Your baby’s social growth will be monitored as well, keeping a watch on how well they interact with others.  

If your medical provider has any concerns, they may request some further testing to rule out other medical or genetic conditions. Some of those tests might include a CT scan, a urine test, a brain MRI or an electroencephalography (EEG) for a deeper understanding of what may be contributing to any delay in reaching those important childhood developmental milestones. 

Treatment for Ataxic CP

Cerebral palsy does not have a cure. It is not progressive, meaning that it will not get worse. The symptoms associated with Ataxic CP will change as the infant grows. However, there are treatments that can ease the pain and suffering, and increase quality of life issues for someone with Ataxic CP. A child diagnosed with Ataxic CP can live a fulfilling life with specialized therapies, and in some cases, surgeries and medications.


  • Antispastic medications help to relax muscle and are used for limb stiffness and spasms and can be delivered by injection, by mouth, or by an intrathecal pump. These medications include diazepam that works with the brain and baclofen (Botox) that works on the muscles.
  • Pain medications can increase comfort, reduce pain, and the inflammation associated with pain. Pain may be the result of recovering from surgery, a physical therapy session, bone or join issues, or any gastrointestinal issue that may lead to digestion or constipation. Anti-inflammatory medications can reduce inflammation and fever. Some of these medications include aspirin, steroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and Corticosteroids.
  • Anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs may be prescribed for anxiety, stress and depression. Patients with Ataxic CP may feel depressed or anxious about their limitations or even about their chronic pain (if they experience chronic pain). Drug therapy is also used in conjunction with other kinds of treatments such as behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, group therapy, or even sleep therapy.
  • Anticholinergic drugs help with the uncontrolled body movements associated with Ataxic CP, such as the jerky movements (chorea) or the slow writing movements (athetosis). They are also used to reduce drooling.
  • Anticonvulsant medications (such as benzodiazepines) are used to prevent or to reduce epileptic seizures. They also have the benefit of being a mood stabilizer.
  • Laxatives are frequently needed by people with Ataxic CP for a few reasons, including constipation due to the use of medications, a diet that is not rich enough in fiber or other nutritional deficiencies, not enough hydration, or not enough physical activity. 

Medical Professionals

Our Portland cerebral palsy lawyers know that an entire health care team should work with the child and the family to make a treatment plan that is unique to the child.  As your child grows, their treatment plans will grow and change as well. Usually your child’s pediatrician will manage this multi-disciplinary team in order to manage any potential complications that may develop, as well as to ensure the best results. The health care team may include all or some of the following professionals:

  • Pediatrician
    A pediatrician is a doctor who cares for infants, children, and adolescents. They manage your child’s overall physical, emotional, and behavioral health.
  • Neurologist
    The neurologist is a nervous system doctor who will diagnose, treat, and manage damage to the brain and to the spinal cord. The neurologist is trained to recognize the early signs of Ataxic CP, especially when there was a traumatic birth injury.
  • Occupational therapist
    The occupational therapist can work on fine motor skills that will increase the child’s independence. These skills can include self-care tasks like hygiene, eating, and writing. They can also work to improve hand-eye coordination.
  • Rehabilitation specialist
    The rehabilitation specialist may focus on gross motor skills through physical therapy, in order to improve strength, flexibility, and walking. Strength and resistance training can improve balance and posture while standing and sitting. A physical therapist will strive to reduce the patient’s impairments and to increase muscle control, in order to make the most of each of their motor functions.
  • Speech therapist
    The speech therapist has a goal of improving communication. The speech therapist will also check for dysphasia, a language disorder where someone has trouble putting together words to form speech, or trouble with understanding speech. They can also help when a child has trouble breathing, swallowing, eating, biting, or chewing.
  • Dietician
    The dietician will advise on proper nutrition that will help your child to grow and to develop by suggesting a customized diet plan. Depending upon the activity level of the child, this diet plan will be based on the number of calories needed to be burned in a day, so that a healthy weight may be achieved and maintained. This plan might include nutritional supplements (for healthy bone development) 
  • Psychologist
    The psychologist will work to manage your child’s depression and anxiety that may be associated with Ataxic CP, or stress and fear while receiving care in the hospital.
  • Ophthalmologist
    The ophthalmologist is an eye doctor, who will work to identify and to manage vision problems, such as esotropia which is when the eyes turn towards the nose, or when they experience “field loss” meaning they are not able to see 180 degrees in any direction. The ophthalmologist can also help with dry eyes from blinking or staring too much. The sooner a child with Ataxic CP is diagnosed with a vision problem, the better. This is because treatments such as corrective lenses, glasses, or an eye patch can be used while the brain is still developing and the child can attain the benefits of sight as soon as possible.
  • Orthopedic Surgeon
    The orthopedic surgeon is a bone, muscle, and joint doctor who may be able to help with motor problems through surgery. Those surgeries might include hip surgery for dislocated joints, tendon lengthening surgery, or spine surgery for scoliosis (the curvature of the spine).  
  • Otolaryngologist
    The otolaryngologist is an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT). Some children with Ataxic CP may have issues with their necks, larynx, trachea, or mouth.

Was Your Newborn Diagnosed with Ataxic Cerebral Palsy?  Let our Portland Birth Injury Lawyers Review Your Case for FREE

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.  

Please act quickly, there is a limited time (Statute of Limitations) in which you can bring a claim under the law.

For a free case evaluation


(541) 385-1999 in Bend, Oregon
(503) 479-3646 in Portland, Oregon
(612) 444-3374 in Minnesota

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