Birth Injuries: Cerebral Palsy

Is Cerebral Palsy a Birth Injury?

Cerebral Palsy is a disorder or group of disorders that affect the brain as well as certain functions of the nervous system such as learning, movement, visual, auditory, and cognitive functions. There are several types of cerebral palsy including spastic, ataxic, dyskinetic, mixed and hypotonic.

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Abnormalities or injury to the brain can cause cerebral palsy.  While the majority of cerebral palsy cases develop in the womb, prior to birth, any child can exhibit cerebral palsy symptoms from birth to age 2.  Often times, cerebral palsy occurs when the brain has received an insufficient amount of oxygen.  Additionally, infants who are born premature are more likely to suffer from this disorder.
According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine there are other contributing factors that may make infants at a greater risk of cerebral palsy, including, but not limited to:
• Infections of the brain including meningitis, encephalitis or herpes simplex
• Bleeding inside the brain
• Injuries to the head
• Severe cases of jaundice

Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

Because there are different types of cerebral palsy, symptoms may differ for individuals with cerebral palsy.  The symptoms may present themselves as relatively mild to severe and may involve both sides of the body or only one side.  Cerebral palsy may only affect the legs or arms, or both.  Other symptoms may include:
• Tight muscles that do not stretch and grow tighter over time, causing rigid movement
• Abnormal gait or walk
• Stiff or limited joint mobility
• Paralysis or weakness in the muscles
• Movements that are abnormal and get worse during stress
• Tremors
• Loss or lack of coordination
• Muscles that are floppy or joints that have too much movement, exhibiting a “lack of control”

Are Tests Available to Determine Cerebral Palsy?

If your infant or young child exhibits movements or behaviors that you suspect may be symptomatic of cerebral palsy, you should contact your pediatrician and request a thorough examination.  If your pediatrician suspects that your child may have cerebral palsy, she can recommend and/or request a neurological “check-up”.  Additionally, she may perform various blood tests, an EEG, an MRI, or a CT scan to view your child’s brain condition or activity.  Hearing and vision tests may also be done on your child.  If tests determine that your child does have cerebral palsy, you will most likely be facing a challenging future with many unanswered questions.

Currently, there is no known cure for cerebral palsy.  Treatments are available and depending on the severity of your child’s cerebral palsy, you may be able to work with numerous specialists (such as neurologists, dentists, and gastroenterologists) and therapists (physical, occupational, and speech).  Treatment will be specialized and built around your child’s needs.  Some treatments may include simple exercises to more intensive therapies to surgeries.  Like any health condition, you should take an active role in your child’s diagnosis and educate yourself the best you can.

Can I File a Birth Injury Claim?

If you suspect that your child’s cerebral palsy occurred due to a birth injury, you may be able to file a medical malpractice suit against the acting physician who delivered your infant.  Because all cerebral palsy cases are different, you will need to seek legal advice to help you proceed with your lawsuit.  A skilled lawyer will closely examine all of your child’s medical records and speak with individuals who were involved with your child’s birth.  A successful lawsuit can help you cover the financial costs of ongoing medical bills which may last your child’s lifetime.

Your child, regardless of his health, deserves to live the highest quality of life possible.  Cerebral palsy can be a scary and overwhelming diagnosis for any new parent expecting a healthy infant, but many individuals who suffer from the often debilitating disorder are able to live a rich and happy life.

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