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Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that disrupts muscle coordination and the neurological functions of the brain. A cerebral palsy diagnosis will lead to abnormal development and missed developmental milestones. The child may suffer from difficulty with physical movement and difficulties with fine motor skills.

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.

Cerebral Palsy and its' causes

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.

If your child has suffered a brain injury because of doctor's negligence, your family may be eligible for significant financial compensation.

The Chances of Developing Cerebral Palsy According to the Centers for Disease Control

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in every 345 babies born in the United States will be diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Most people with cerebral palsy do not develop the condition naturally on their own. While the exact cause may be determined after the fact, usually something has gone wrong in fetal development or the birthing process. Cerebral palsy is caused as opposed to developing on its own. Usually, something has happened to cause increased risk of the disease.

Children born with the condition have had some kind of trauma or difficulty in utero that made them a high risk for the disease. Cerebral palsy is a common form of birth injury that leads to medical malpractice lawsuits.

The Different Types of Cerebral Palsy (Including Spastic Cerebral Palsy)

Here are the main types of cerebral palsy:

  • Spastic cerebral palsy- this is the most common form of the disease, making up about 80% of cases. This type of cerebral palsy has stiff muscles.
  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy - there are issues with muscle tone that make it difficult to control movement due to conflicts with brain signals
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy
  • Mixed cerebral palsy- a child can have more than one form of cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy can mean both physical and intellectual disabilities. The child will experience developmental delays as a result of the condition. Many children with CP have a brain injury that further complicates the issues due to their inability to communicate.

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.

Many cerebral palsy cases involve depleted oxygen levels that 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.

Here are some of the common reasons (risk factors) why children suffer the brain damage that causes cerebral palsy:


The child's cerebral palsy may happen 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.

Conditions With the Umbilical Cord

When the cord is twisted or wrapped around the child's neck, it causes cerebral palsy. The blood flow to the child's brain can be interrupted.

Injuries to the Head

These injuries 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.

This can permanently damage blood vessels in the brain and lead to a brain injury. 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.

Birth Injuries to the Developing Brain

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 that 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. These infections can also include severe jaundice and German measles.

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. In the case of a premature birth, doctors should be aware of the risk of the child developing CP, particularly when the newborn has low birth weight or lacks muscle tone.
  • 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 developing brain and overall well being. 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 to avoid brain damage.
  • 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 (permanent brain damage)

Contact a Cerebral Palsy Lawyer

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 LLC 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 a cerebral palsy lawyer today at (888) 424-5757 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. It is in your best interests to work with an experienced birth injury attorney.

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