Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that disrupts muscle coordination and the neurological functions of the brain. Most cases of cerebral palsy are linked to injuries sustained during pregnancy or the delivery of a child. When detected quickly and treated properly, these injuries can be addressed while still preventing cerebral palsy and the disorder is primarily the result of delayed action or the failure to detect injuries that can impair brain development or function. Children with cerebral palsy are affected by the condition for life and in most cases will require constant and ongoing care for the treatment of their symptoms.
Primary Causes of Cerebral Palsy
There are links between elevated bilirubin levels and cerebral palsy due both to the ability of bilirubin to freely pass into the brain and the undeveloped liver’s inability to process and eliminate bilirubin from a newborn’s system quickly. Depleted oxygen levels also play a factor in the development of cerebral palsy as the areas of the brain affected are responsible for the development of common motor functions, balance and the ability to speak. Injuries that can eventually result in the development of cerebral palsy if not properly addressed include the following.
- Infections— during pregnancy or as the result of injuries sustained during the tumultuous process of giving birth. Infections threaten brain development in numerous manners by triggering an immune response, elevating internal temperature and increasing bilirubin levels. Most infections are cured through the administration of antibiotics but the failure to detect the presence of an infection is the primary cause of infection related cases of cerebral palsy.
- Detachment of the placenta during birth. This can cause uncontrolled bleeding which puts the child in distress and limits the supply of blood reaching the brain. It is important that both the mother and child are monitored for signs of fetal distress during labor and delivery.
- Injuries to the head that are the result of assisted delivery devices such as forceps or a vacuum. One prevalent symptom of injuries sustained in this manner is the presence of a caput succedaneum, which is a formation on the scalp that results from bleeding and swelling following the use of delivery devices to suction the child’s head. Bleeding results in the production of bilirubin and it is important to monitor babies who have sustained trauma for jaundice as this is a sign of elevated bilirubin levels.
- Genetic mutations or predispositions. In some cases, genetic markers or mutations that occur naturally throughout the pregnancy may increase the risk of cerebral palsy or act as the catalyst.
- Injuries sustained following birth. Some cases of cerebral palsy are not linked to the conditions or treatment at the time of birth but are the result of a traumatic injury occurring during the developmental stages of a child’s life. Blows to the head such as from a fall or sustained in a car accident may result in elevated bilirubin levels. The internal bleeding itself can limit the supply of oxygen to the brain as well, resulting in the death of cells important to cognitive and motor function.
- Infections which occur after birth. Infants possess underdeveloped immune systems and are susceptible to infection in the months following delivery. It is important to detect the presence of serious infections such as meningitis as they are linked to the development of cerebral palsy in infants.
Preventative Measures to Help Identify at Risk Babies
While medical error is not always the primary cause of cerebral palsy, it is important to note that around ten percent of cases have been linked to medical negligence. Doctors and medical staff should take the following precautions in order to ensure the safety of the unborn child throughout the pregnancy, labor and delivery.
- Proper monitoring of the child throughout the pregnancy in order to detect abnormalities, mutations, infections or other risk factors that place the child at risk of developing neurological disorders.
- Special treatment must be given to children who are born prematurely or who have a low birth weight as these factors increase the chance of hemorrhaging during and after delivery. Some studies have suggested that premature babies could be up to 80 times as likely to develop cerebral palsy as those delivered at full time but these studies have been inconclusive thus far. A definitive link has been proven between premature birth and cerebral palsy, however.
- The heart rates of both mother and child need to be under constant monitoring during delivery in order to detect symptoms of fetal distress. If the baby exhibits an abnormal heart rate, it is likely a symptom of reduced blood or oxygen supply and represents a threat to its wellbeing. Doctors must make decisive decisions regarding the use of an emergency cesarean section if it is determined that either the child or mother is in distress.
- Monitoring newborns for the presence of jaundice. The yellow coloration that accompanies bruising is due to bilirubin, which is a substance excreted during the healing process. The liver is normally able to regulate bilirubin levels and eliminate any excess bilirubin through the urine but newborns’ livers are unable to eliminate the substance quickly enough. This results in the yellowing of the skin and eyes as bilirubin accumulates throughout the body and if detected in time, the condition is easily treatable. Failure to act in time is what allows the excess bilirubin to reach the brain and cause harm to areas responsible for motor function and speech.
If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, we understand the difficulties that you are currently facing. You may have questions and concerns about whether your child’s condition was the result of negligence and how best to ensure that you will be able to care for him or her. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers have had both extensive experience and success working with clients injured during birth and we would like the opportunity to provide answers to those questions. Contact us today to arrange a free consultation so that we can evaluate the details of your case with you and investigate the details of your case so that we can advise you on your legal options and how best to proceed.
Should we be unable to assist you or fail to collect compensation on your behalf, our services will come at no cost to you.