Understanding Cerebral Palsy, its Causes, and Possible Treatments
It is traumatic to learn that your infant has cerebral palsy. It is a maternal instinct to want to make it all better for your baby right away. With cerebral palsy, though, there is no quick fix. There is not even a treatment. Thankfully, there are preventative measures that can be taken to lessen the chances of your baby having cerebral palsy. There are also ways to manage cerebral palsy, once developed, and even mitigate its consequences. Contact our Oregon cerebral palsy attorney today to talk about prevention and management and what was and is done to help your child and you.
Cerebral Palsy Defined
Cerebral palsy is a set of motor disorders that affect how a person is able to move and maintain his or her balance and posture. The inability to move and maintain balance and posture is a result of damaged or abnormal brain development. Signs of cerebral palsy appear in early childhood years and is marked by certain characteristics, which can range from mild to severe. It can form in the womb, at birth, or in the first two years of life. There are three main types: spasticity, dyskinesia, and ataxia.
About 764,000 children and adults currently have some form of cerebral palsy.
Signs of Cerebral Palsy Found in Babies
The primary sign of cerebral palsy, which can be found in babies, is that the baby does not reach moving milestones on time, such as walking, talking, and rolling over. Still, there are other signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy in a baby. For example, a baby that is younger than six months may appear stiff or floppy; their head lags; and their legs make a scissor. For a baby older than six months, the baby often does not rollover either way; cannot bring their hands together; and has difficulty bringing his or her hands to his or her mouth. A baby older than 10 months of age will crawl in a lopsided manner often. Further, they do not crawl on all fours, and scoots on their buttocks, instead of crawling on all fours. Although these are some of the most studied and observed signs of cerebral palsy, every individual is different, and signs of cerebral palsy, like any other medical complication, can vary.
Associated Medical Complications
Although cerebral palsy is enough on its own, there are unfortunately, other, associated medical complications that often arise when a person has cerebral palsy. A major related complication that often comes along with cerebral palsy are seizures. Approximately 35 percent of those with cerebral palsy experience seizures and/or epilepsy. These occur when the brain misfires electrical activity, and the symptoms will vary per individual. For example, some children or adults may simply stare off in space during the seizure, whereas another may blink aggressively, jerk, or even lose consciousness.
A second very common illness associated with cerebral palsy is dysphagia. Dysphagia simply means difficulty swallowing, which occurs in those with cerebral palsy because of the loss of muscle movement. Dysphagia makes eating challenging, as the individual will have a difficult time swallowing and consuming the food. As such, this can lead to esophageal issues and sudden weight loss. It can also increase the chances of choking.
Other potential associated complications are as follows:
- Learning disabilities
- Movement and walking disabilities
- Speech issues
- Hearing loss
- Vision loss
- Cognitive disabilities
- Spinal complications
How Medical Malpractice Can Cause Cerebral Palsy
There are numerous people and entities that can be at fault for negligently acting in a way that causes an infant to develop cerebral palsy, or to exacerbate their already existing cerebral palsy. It is not just the doctor or doctors, who may have caused or contributed to the negligence. Those who took part in the entire pregnancy, delivery process, and post-delivery process must be examined. This can include: nurses, nurse practitioners, the hospital itself, medical assistants, midwives, birthing centers, physician groups, and others.
Different actors can commit different types of negligence resulting in birth injuries. What are those types?
One primary way in which negligence can be committed, amounting to medical practice, and cause cerebral palsy in a child, is through the delivery process. Specifically, if the baby is deprived of oxygen during the birthing process, not only can cerebral palsy develop, but other, similarly significant complications may arise, including death. If a baby is in the breech position, such as when they are facing feet forward, and a C-Section is not performed at the appropriate time, the infant may lose oxygen and the development of cerebral palsy can result. A doctor and his or her medical staff must be aware of the scenarios in which an infant can lose oxygen, to avoid them, and further avoid cerebral palsy.
A second scenario when cerebral palsy can form is if the mother has an infection. Whether before or after delivery, the doctor and medical staff need to address any infection immediately. Infections are crucial to treat immediately because they can lead to poor brain development, which could further lead to cerebral palsy, or again, other significant issues, and even death. Contact our Oregon cerebral palsy attorney today to discuss whether your infant has cerebral palsy as a result of medical malpractice.
Cerebral Palsy Causes
Like many other medical complications, the true root cause is many times unknown. However, there are known causes established, so finding the root cause may be possible. At the very least, the established causes can direct us in taking the appropriate preventative measures.
Cerebral palsy is caused “by an abnormality or disruption in brain development, most often before a child is born,” the Mayo Clinic states. As mentioned, the cause is not usually known. Yet, it is known what factors can lead to this abnormality or disruption in brain development. They are as follows:
- Traumatic brain injury (“TBI”)—can occur during or after delivery. Common instances when TBI occurs are: overly pressured use of forceps on the infant’s head; poorly timed or performed C-Section; excessively long labor; overly aggressive use of vacuum extractors; vehicle accident; or a fall
- Lack of oxygen—sometimes related to a difficult or poorly handled labor or delivery. This can happen for a number of reasons, including detachment of the placenta, uterine rupture, or issues with the umbilical cord
- Infections (mother)—will affect the developing fetus. Herpes, for example, will inflame the unborn baby’s developing nervous system. The virus Zika, which can cause a baby’s head to be abnormally small, increases the risk of cerebral palsy.
- Infections (infant)—causes inflammation in or around the brain
- Gene mutations—cause abnormal development in the brain
- Fetal stroke—halts blood supply to the infant’s developing brain
Once the infant is born, there are also illnesses that they can acquire, that may then cause cerebral palsy:
- Severe or untreated jaundice, which can also be kernicterus
- Bacterial meningitis—inflames the membranes around the brain and spinal cord
- Viral encephalitis—inflames the membranes around the brain and spinal chord
Finally, a premature infant is more at risk for cerebral palsy. The earlier a baby is born, the higher the risk of cerebral palsy. When there are multiple babies in the uterus, the risk increases in that case as well. Further, if one of the babies passes, the surviving baby’s risk of cerebral palsy increases.
What are the Treatments?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for cerebral palsy. However, there may be steps you, alongside your doctor, can take to prevent cerebral palsy in your child. Additionally, if your child already has cerebral palsy, there are established ways and methods of managing your child’s cerebral palsy, and therefore, enhance their, and your quality of life. The preventative measures are as follows:
- Make sure any infections you have are treated before becoming pregnant. Keep an eye on if any arise. Work to take the necessary steps to avoid acquiring any infections. For example, wash your hands properly and regularly consistently.
- Obtain vaccinations for diseases that could harm your infant. This needs to be done before you become pregnant.
- Get regular medical care to check on the status of you and your baby
- If you get sick or feel that something is wrong with either you or your baby, contact your medical care provider as soon as possible and tell them
- If you and your baby have different blood types, this can leave to jaundice or severe jaundice, known as kernicterus. Severe jaundice or kernicterus or untreated jaundice can increase the risk of developing cerebral palsy. Talk to your doctor about preventing this possibility. Doctors can treat you accordingly so your baby does not develop this.
It should be noted that your medical care provider should be informing you of some or all of the aforementioned, if they apply to your situation.
Similarly, it is a medical care provider’s duty to inform you of what can be done if your child already has cerebral palsy. With cerebral palsy comes several complications that last throughout a lifetime. A mother to a child with cerebral palsy should discuss the following with his or her doctor:
- Malnutrition—since swallowing is a difficulty, it is sometimes challenging to get the proper amount of nutrients in a child or adult with cerebral palsy. This is especially true for an infant. Bones can be negatively impacted as a result. A feeding tube is commonly used.
- Heart and lung disease—commonly develop
- Osteoarthritis—due to abnormal muscle movement and spasticity, there may be an unusually large amount of pressure on joints. Likewise, the alignment of joints may be off. This could lead to degenerative bone disease
- Contracture—since muscle tissue shortens due to spasticity, bone growth can be hindered. Also, bones may bend and joints may deform and dislocate
- Mental health—disabilities may lead to social isolation, which can in turn lead to depression, anxiety, and many other mental illnesses
- Medications—anti-seizure and other medications that a person with cerebral palsy may be on needs to be monitored and interactions checked. Further, the side effects of some of the medications may need treatment themselves
Get Help for Cerebral Palsy Cases in Oregon By Asking Our Lawyer
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.