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Cerebral Palsy Medical Error Infographic

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Cerebral Palsy: A Guide for Parents

Patients with cerebral palsy experience abnormal motor functions and postural tones. The disease begins early – sometimes even before birth and symptoms are usually first noticed before the child is a year old.

Types of Cerebral Palsy

One type is known as spastic cerebral palsy. With this condition, patients have increased muscle tone that leads to a stiff posture in the arms and legs. Because of muscle spasms, some people with this type may experience incontinence or difficulty eating. Over 70% of all cerebral palsy cases are spastic. The cause is damage to the cerebral cortex, which is the outer layer of the brain.

Athetoid cerebral palsy causes damage to the basal ganglia. Children with this type will often have involuntary movements or seem restless. Everyday activities like walking, holding small objects, or sitting up straight may become extremely difficult. Athetoid cerebral palsy comes with higher risk for dangerous complications or even death.

Ataxic cerebral palsy is a more rare form of the disease. It is associated with damage to the cerebellum. Children with this condition can have severely decreased muscle tone, depth perception and coordination. They can appear to be tired all the time because they are unable to keep their heads steady and they will appear to be unbalanced and shaky when they walk.

How is Cerebral Palsy Diagnosed?

An experienced neurologist that can properly read EEG, MRI and CT as well as accurately assess children will generally be necessary. Diagnosis typically happens between three months and three years of age. Children with cerebral palsy will often exhibit seizures, lethargy, jitters, irritability as well as feeding and respiratory issues. At times, they can even lapse into a coma.

How is Cerebral Palsy Treated?

Cerebral palsy is best handled by a team. A physical therapist can analyze muscle strength and tone and provide assistance with walking. Occupational therapists evaluate the child’s ability to take care of his or herself and their manual dexterity. For children with difficulties speaking, chewing or swallowing, a speech therapist is highly recommended.

Qualified specialists will also be able to provide mobility aids. These devices help patients suffering from cerebral palsy to navigate on their own.

Who is at Risk for Cerebral Palsy? Premature Birth

Infants born before 37 weeks or those who weigh 3.5 pounds and under have between 20 and 80% higher chances of developing cerebral palsy. This is often caused by bleeding in the brain or periventricular leukomalacia, which damages nerves in the brain.

Not Enough Oxygen to the Fetus

This often happens if the placenta malfunctions or moves away from the uterine wall before the baby is delivered.

Infections while Pregnant

Rubella, cytomegalovirus, herpes, and toxoplasmosis are all infections the mother can have while pregnant that could cause brain damage and cerebral palsy.


A condition that leads to yellowing skin and eyes, it happens when bilirubin builds in the bloodstream. If not treated, there is the risk of permanent brain damage and the child could develop athetoid cerebral palsy.

Asphyxiation During Labor

Historically, it was believed that asphyxiation during labor and delivery caused most cases of cerebral palsy. Recent research has revealed that it actually only contributes to between five and 10 percent of all cases.

What are Your Legal Rights When Medical Negligence Caused Your Child’s CP?

Parents of children with cerebral palsy are sometimes eligible for damages to cover past and future medical care if it is found that the condition was caused by a medical error. Some of these errors include the use of pitocin to induce labor, not reacting to changing vitals during labor, and not ordering the correct diagnostics if an issue is detected during pregnancy. Physicians can also be held liable for failing to perform a c-section if there is fetal distress, not delivering the baby quickly after the water has broken, or not using the vacuum extractor correctly during the delivery.

For additional information about the legal options available to families coping with cerebral palsy view our practice page here.

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