Cerebral palsy is a medical condition resulting from brain damage sustained before, during, or immediately after childbirth delivery. “Cerebral palsy” is not actually the name of a specific condition; the term applies to various conditions that impact the victim’s physical, neurological, and behavioral development in several ways.
Any type of abnormal brain development that interferes with proper musculoskeletal development falls under the umbrella of “cerebral palsy.”
Cerebral Palsy Statistics
Roughly half a million people currently live with cerebral palsy in the U.S., and doctors diagnose about 8,000 babies and 1,200 to 1,500 preschool-age children with the condition each year. About one baby is born with cerebral palsy every hour, and cerebral palsy is the most common childhood physical disability.
Doctors diagnose about one American baby out of every 323 births with cerebral palsy. About 40% of children born with cerebral palsy are premature births while about 60% reach full term before delivery.
In most cases, cerebral palsy is immediately diagnosable. Most children born with this condition will display symptoms immediately after birth, some of which are more noticeable than others.
The condition manifests more slowly in other children, some of whom do not display any noticeable symptoms for the first few years of life, but may start exhibiting symptoms at the beginning of the school age years.
Medical Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy’s main characterizing symptom is difficulty moving due to inhibited muscular development, and the range of this symptom varies widely from case to case. Some children born with cerebral palsy only have minor difficulty moving one arm while others may completely lack the ability to control voluntary movements.
Cerebral palsy can also cause a number of unpredictable symptoms including:
- Cognitive impairment and intellectual disability
- Spastic muscular movements
- Vision and hearing problems
- Behavioral development delays
- Seizure disorders
- Poor balance and coordination
- Speech delays and difficulty communicating
Some children who suffer from cerebral palsy also display signs of autism, struggle with chronic pain, or experience a mixture of physical, behavioral, and cognitive impairments from cerebral palsy.
Cerebral Palsy Treatment
Cerebral palsy is not curable. A baby born with cerebral palsy will struggle with the symptoms of the condition for life, but it is possible to treat some of those symptoms to encourage the highest possible level of independence later in life.
Depending on the breadth and severity of symptoms, a child with cerebral palsy may grow up to lead a relatively normal life with minimal ongoing medical intervention. Other children born with more advanced symptoms may require 24/7 supervision and assistance with all basic everyday tasks.
Children with cerebral palsy typically undergo various types of ongoing therapies to help them adjust to the physical limitations caused by this condition. Physical therapy can help improve balance, build strength, and improve muscle coordination. Speech therapy can help a child overcome linguistic and communicative barriers. Behavioral therapy could help a child with cerebral palsy learn to socialize with peers and process emotions.
Other children with cerebral palsy benefit from art therapy, music therapy, recreational therapy, and various other treatments. Ultimately, parents should expect to develop a comprehensive treatment plan for a child with cerebral palsy. This treatment plan will likely change over time as some symptoms abate and new symptoms manifest.
Legal Issues With Cerebral Palsy Diagnoses
Doctors performing childbirth procedures and managing prenatal care for pregnant women must offer sound medical advice and pay close attention to warning signs of cerebral palsy. This condition is not curable, but appropriate prenatal care and speedy assessment of troublesome symptoms may help prevent cerebral palsy or at least minimize the severity of symptoms.
If medical negligence leads to a child’s cerebral palsy diagnosis, the parents likely have grounds for legal action against the negligent doctor. Remember, cerebral palsy is sometimes unpredictable, difficult to detect, and essentially unavoidable in some cases even with extensive and thorough prenatal care.
If your child developed cerebral palsy due to medical negligence, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC can help you determine your best options for legal recourse, so reach out to us today to schedule a free consultation.