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Birth Injuries and Cerebral Palsy

Planning for a new baby is a joyous and hopeful time. When a child is born with special needs because something goes wrong during pregnancy, labor or birth, the family may be able to file a medical malpractice claim to help mitigate the potentially staggering costs of medical treatment, therapy, medication and long-term care.


Our experienced and compassionate team of medical malpractice lawyers understands the emotional and financial hardships of families dealing with traumatic birth injuries that could have been avoided. One of our first steps is to take a close look to determine if a birth injury was caused by medical malpractice. If we determine you have a viable claim, we will guide you through every step of the legal process with the utmost professionalism and personal concern.


Types of Birth Injuries


While most conditions are not caused by medical treatment errors, others do occur because of negligence or medical mistakes. Here are some of the most common:


Brain damage is usually caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain during delivery. The damage can be debilitating and permanent. The lack of oxygen during this critical time can result from either a mechanical injury or an anoxic injury.


An anoxic injury is caused by a reduced oxygen supply, respiratory obstruction, or inadequate respiratory movements during delivery.


A mechanical injury can occur as the result of the improper use of forceps, suction, or another kind of force to the baby’s head or body.


A fractured skull, which can also be accompanied by brain damage, is caused by excessive force to the baby’s head from forceps, suction or other reasons.


Facial nerve damage

Facial nerve palsy due to birth trauma is the loss of controllable (voluntary) muscle movement in an infant’s facial nerve, also called the seventh cranial nerve. It is caused by pressure on the face just before or at the time of birth. This injury usually occurs during difficult deliveries, especially when the baby is larger than average. Facial nerve damage can also be caused by the improper use of forceps.


The most common form of facial nerve palsy due to birth trauma involves only the lower part of the facial nerve, which controls the muscles around the lips. This muscle weakness is most noticeable when the infant cries.


Other facial nerve damage symptoms may include:


  • Facial area below the eyes appears uneven during crying
  • Mouth does not move down the same way on both sides while crying
  • No movement (paralysis) on the affected side of the face (in serious cases, the area from the forehead to the chin is paralyzed)
  • Eyelid may not close on affected side


While this condition often disappears on its own within a few months, this is not always the case when the nerve damage is more serious. If you notice any of the above symptoms, seek medical attention and contact us for a free consultation.


Erb’s palsy, also known as shoulder dystocia, is another kind of physical injury that can result from a mistake during delivery. This injury can occur when an inexperienced or improperly trained physician damages a newborn’s brachial plexus, a delicate part of the shoulder, as the result of using forceps incorrectly or engaging in other negligent actions during delivery. The long-term effects of a brachial plexus injury include chronic pain, a limited ability to move a hand and/or arm or an inability to lift an arm above shoulder level.


While estimates vary, it appears that between two to seven babies out of every thousand births will suffer some form of birth injury.


Warning Signs of Birth Injury


The signs that a fetus has a higher risk of birth injury include:


  • A difficult and/or long labor
  • Improper use of medication or other substances by the pregnant mother
  • An abnormally large fetus
  • Breech birth (buttocks first)
  • High-risk pregnancy conditions such as gestational diabetes


The risk increases if there is an unreasonably long delay in performing an emergency cesarean section.


If your child or grandchild has been diagnosed with a birth injury or cerebral palsy, contact us as soon as possible.


Submit a simple, free consultation form now.


Cerebral Palsy


One of the most common types of birth injuries is cerebral palsy, an umbrella-like term used to describe several chronic disorders that impair control of movement. These conditions usually appear in the first few years of life and generally do not worsen over time. The term “cerebral” refers to the brain’s two halves or hemispheres, and “palsy” means any disorder that impairs control of body movement.


One of the conditions, known as spastic diplegia (formerly called Little’s disease), causes stiff, spastic muscles in children’s legs and, to a lesser degree, in their arms, making it difficult to crawl, walk and grasp objects.


It has been determined that these disorders are not caused by problems in muscles or nerves but by faulty development or damage to motor areas in the brain that disrupt the brain’s ability to adequately control movement and posture.


The United Cerebral Palsy Association estimates that more than 500,000 Americans have cerebral palsy. Despite advances in preventing and treating certain causes of cerebral palsy, the number of children and adults it affects has remained essentially stable or may have risen slightly over the past 30 years. This is partly because more critically premature and frail infants are able to survive with improved neonatal intensive care. Many of these infants have developmental problems with the nervous system or suffer neurological damage.


Is Cerebral Palsy Preventable?


Often, parents of children with cerebral palsy are led to believe that their child suffers from a birth defect that was unavoidable. Rarely are they told their child’s disability was caused by a medical error. Many parents feel there is no way to know what caused their children’s cerebral palsy and do not know how to begin to search for answers.


The reality is that cerebral palsy is sometimes the result of a medical mistake that deprived a child of oxygen during pregnancy, often while the mother was in labor.


Doctors have an obligation to provide adequate care during all stages of a woman’s pregnancy, including labor and the period immediately after birth. Unfortunately, while well-intended, doctors are human and are therefore capable of error or negligence.


Physician mistakes that may cause cerebral palsy include:


  • Failure or delay in performing a cesarean section after signs of oxygen deprivation or other fetal distress have been identified.
  • Inadequate monitoring of the mother during pregnancy, especially if she has been identified as high-risk due to a condition such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, asthma, renal disease, lupus or thyroid disease.
  • Incorrect monitoring and interpretation of feedback throughout the labor and delivery process
  • Failing to conduct necessary tests during pregnancy or misinterpreting the results of tests that have been taken.


Symptoms of cerebral palsy


While the symptoms can range widely from one child to another in terms of severity, many children with cerebral palsy have difficulty with fine motor tasks such as:


  • Writing
  • Cutting with scissors
  • Maintaining balance, walking, running, jumping or stair-climbing


Some individuals also experience involuntary movements such as an uncontrollable writhing motion of the hands. This and other symptoms may change over time. Other medical disorders, like seizures or mental impairment, may affect some children who are born with cerebral palsy.


Contrary to common belief, cerebral palsy does not always cause profound disability. While a child with severe cerebral palsy might be unable to walk and need extensive, lifelong care, a child with mild cerebral palsy might require limited special assistance. Cerebral palsy is not contagious and not usually inherited from one generation to the next. At this time, there is no cure, although scientific research continues to yield improved treatments and methods of prevention.


Medical Problems Related to Cerebral Palsy


Other medical conditions can be linked to cerebral palsy, including seizure disorders, mental impairment, and vision or hearing problems. For possible vision problems, the doctor may recommend an examination by an ophthalmologist. If the treating physician suspects a hearing impairment, he or she may refer the patient to an otologist.


When a parent suspects that these or other conditions may be present, it is important to consult with a specialist as soon as possible since early intervention can help ameliorate the long-term effects and maximize the child’s potential.


If your child or grandchild has been diagnosed with a birth injury or cerebral palsy, contact us as soon as possible.


Submit a simple, free consultation form now.


Source: http://www.cerebralpalsy.org/about-cerebral-palsy/prevalence-and-incidence