Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis
As parents, we want to find out and understand what it is that is causing our children pain and suffering quickly so that we can provide them with the care and treatment they so desperately require.
For this reason, it can be extremely frustrating to undergo the process of diagnosing the signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy.
Many of the symptoms mimic or include other conditions and doctors must first eliminate other potential causes of your child’s symptoms before coming to the conclusion that he or she has cerebral palsy.
The process is tumultuous and wears on parents emotionally and mentally but is required in order to ensure that the diagnosis is correct and to formulate the right treatment plan for your child.
Parents may first notice an abnormal posture or that their child is not meeting developmental milestones. They first want to know the cause of the developmental problems.
Cerebral Palsy Attorneys
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, we help families when their child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Sometimes, the disease is the result of a birth injury because of negligence by the child's doctor.
The baby could have suffered brain damage because medical professionals did not provide reasonable care. Negligence can cause this terrible disease and other disorders.
Parents Should Act Early
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the average age of diagnosis of spastic diplegia is 18 months. This is a very common form of cerebral palsy.
Parents should act at the first signs of symptoms or motor delays, both to learn the cause of the disease and to begin treatment.
Most children will begin to show early symptoms through a lack of voluntary control over their movements. Intellectual disabilities may also be apparent at a young age.
How to Diagnose Cerebral Palsy
Parents may grow concerned because their child is not reaching age-appropriate development milestones. The child's signs may lead to an inescapable conclusion that something is wrong.
When a child is at an elevated risk of being diagnosed with cerebral palsy or parents begin showing signs of developmental delay, doctors will begin a twelve-step process of evaluating, testing and diagnosing.
This process must be followed in order to narrow down and eventually rule out the other possible causes of his or her symptoms and to provide a definitive diagnosis. In many cases doctors will utilize imaging tests such as a CT scan to help in making a diagnosis of cerebral palsy.
Observation by the Family
The first step in diagnosing cerebral palsy is taken at home. Family members are asked to observe the child and record any abnormal behaviors or specific symptoms that manifest themselves throughout a normal day-to-day routine.
Parents are instructed specifically to watch for symptoms of physical impairment and other medical conditions — which could manifest through muscle tone or the inability to perform motor functions— and developmental delays such as speed impediments, difficulty with motor skills (or primitive reflexes), or difficulty learning.
The symptoms of spastic cerebral palsy may be somewhat easier to spot, given the profound impact on a child's movements.
Observation by a Pediatrician
After doctors determine that the symptoms reported by a child’s parents warrant further investigation, they will ask a developmental pediatrician to perform clinical observations that will include tests to determine whether the child’s reflexes are developing normally.
If the child was born prematurely or considered high risk for neurological disorders, or has a low birth weight, this form of observation may begin immediately following birth.
The physician may have suspicions of cerebral palsy after putting the child through a physical examination or developmental screening. The pediatrician may also notice impaired muscle tone and want to run further tests.
Finally, they may be aware of risk factors, such as a difficult delivery, that could increase the chances of cerebral palsy.
Assessing Development of Motor Function
Because diminished motor development and function is one of the primary symptoms of cerebral palsy, doctors will perform tests to determine whether the child’s motor functions are limited or impaired. Doctors diagnose cerebral palsy by performing these tests.
This assessment includes examinations of the child’s motor skills, muscle tone, posture, coordination, reflexes, balance and fine motor functions. Doctors will almost take an exhaustive inventory of cerebral palsy symptoms, looking for anything hindering the child's development.
If the results indicate abnormalities in motor development, doctors will proceed to the next step toward a diagnosis. The severity of the symptoms will be recorded as well as this information will be required later on both in determining the cause of the condition as well as forming a treatment plan.
Examination of Medical History
In order to rule out other conditions, doctors will evaluate the medical histories of both parents. This information can rule out genetic factors and conditions that run in the family.
As well as evaluating the medical histories of both parents, doctors will want to review prenatal records and those following the birth of the child in order to collect information that could determine the cause of the condition.
Ruling Out Other Factors and Assessing Associative Conditions
Cerebral palsy may be accompanied by other conditions and those conditions themselves may mimic the symptoms of cerebral palsy, making the initial diagnosis extremely difficult.
During this stage of diagnosis, doctors will order a series of tests in order to detect neurological conditions, genetic diseases, degenerative diseases, tumors and other injuries that can mimic the signs of cerebral palsy. Some of these conditions may be treatable or curable.
Blood tests and lab work will not diagnose cerebral palsy itself. However, they will rule out other conditions, so doctors can hone in on a cerebral palsy diagnosis.
These will look for signs and symptoms of other conditions. Doctors will usually perform extensive medical evaluations before settling on a cerebral palsy diagnosis.
This testing can also help doctors zero in on diagnosis of cerebral palsy. It may also rule out a predisposition for this disease that could help your lawyer argue that the medical malpractice was the cause of the disease.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Computed Tomography Scan
A multitude of tests will be performed to narrow and rule out other possible causes of the child’s symptoms as well as to help diagnose cerebral palsy.
The parents will consult with a pediatric neurologist to get an assessment of the child's condition. Cerebral palsy can often be diagnosed after a detailed examination of the baby's brain.
These tests include imaging scans such as an MRI, CT scan, cranial ultrasound or other imaging tests.
The purpose of the magnetic resonance imaging scans, CT scans, and cranial ultrasound is to detect abnormalities in brain development or damage to the specific areas of the child's brain that control motor function, speech and cognitive processing.
Cranial ultrasounds use high frequency sound waves to make pictures of the brain. MRI scans are one of the most common tools of diagnosis.
Other tests are performed to assess the child’s vision, hearing, behavior and physical development.
During this stage, it is often determined that another condition or injury could be the cause of the child’s symptoms but if all other possibilities are ruled out, it will result in a more definitive diagnosis.
The Initial Diagnosis
Once doctors perform a physical exam, evaluate the tests and determine that cerebral palsy is indeed the cause of the child’s injuries, an initial diagnosis will be presented and steps will be made toward forming a treatment plan.
Doctors try not to give a premature diagnosis of cerebral palsy in order to decrease the chance of misdiagnosis and to help the families adjust to the possibility that their children may have the condition.
However, after performing a variety of tests, doctors may be in a position to confirm cerebral palsy. Of course, severe cases will be much easier to diagnose since it is easier to distinguish them from other conditions.
Seeking a Second Opinion
Parents are encouraged to seek a second opinion in order to truly confirm that their child has cerebral palsy and to rule out the possibility of misdiagnosis.
Given the ramifications of the disease, parents will want to receive an accurate diagnosis. This could mean additional tests are performed just to confirm the initial diagnosis. Again, doctors will rule out other various disorders before diagnosing cerebral palsy.
The information collected in the previous stages of diagnosis is used in determining the exact cause of the injury that led to a cerebral palsy diagnosis.
This information is important because it could indicate whether negligence or medical malpractice was a contributing factor.
Assembling a Care Team
Once a child has been diagnosed, it is important to create an effective treatment plan and the first step is to determine which forms of treatment are required as well as who will provide specialized care. The care team will include physical medicine doctors and therapists.
Children with cerebral palsy have treatment options when they are treated by physical and occupational therapists.
Creating a Treatment Plan
Once a team has been assembled, each specialist will coordinate with a pediatrician to form and implement a plan of care that is designed around the specific needs of the child.
The treatment plan will include a number of therapies that can help as the child develops.
Many children will receive:
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy (such as muscle training and other exercises)
- Speech and language therapy
- Activity therapy
- Adaptive equipment to help with daily life
Early intervention is a must with this condition. An early and extensive plan can improve the child's health and increase the chances of them living as normal of a life as possible.
However, the costs of these treatments can be prohibitive. If you are looking at a more experimental and less-established type of therapy, the health insurance may not even cover it.
Therefore, it is vital to make the doctor pay for the care and all other costs if their negligence caused the birth injury. Our lawyers can help you recover financial compensation in medical malpractice cases.
What Happens After Doctors Diagnose Cerebral Palsy?
The child's life will be dictated by the severity of the case. Depending on the type of cerebral palsy and the extent of the treatment, the child may end up living a somewhat normal life. This is the best-case scenario.
Some children are more profoundly affected than others. The child's growth, movement and intellectual ability can be at risk. Early intervention can make a difference. In addition, your child will need specialized care that may stretch into adulthood.
Acceptance of Life With Cerebral Palsy
The family must now face the reality of caring for a loved one with cerebral palsy and address all of the challenges that accompany the diagnosis.
The emotional, physical and financial stress placed on family members can feel like it is too much to bear, but with the proper support system and resources, it is possible to adapt and plan for the future needs of the child.
They should get extensive professional medical advice. In addition, the parents should get emotional support because it is difficult to raise a child with this condition.
They should also review extensive educational materials to learn more about cerebral palsy and what they can do. The more educated parents are about the condition, the more they are able to advocate for their own child's health and be involved in their care.
Cerebral Palsy Diagnosed Means Legal Action
If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, contact the Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC for more information about your rights as a parent as well as for assistance with resources that will help you through your child’s diagnosis.
Our team of cerebral palsy attorneys not only specializes in the representation of people just like you in civil litigation, but we also have access to resources that will make the process of diagnosing your child less burdensome.
If we are unable to assist you in collecting compensation, these services will come at no cost.