When Is Cerebral Palsy Diagnosed?
Cerebral palsy (CP) is one of the most common neurological disorders resulting from a brain injury. It can occur both in utero and during delivery. Parents should get their children tested if they suspect a cerebral palsy diagnosis.
If a doctor is to blame for your child's condition, they can be held legally responsible in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Once you hire an experienced attorney, you can sue the at-fault medical professionals. The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC can fight for your family to receive full financial compensation.
Contact our cerebral palsy lawyers today at (888) 424-5757 for a free case review.
Risk Factors for Cerebral Palsy
Parents should be on the lookout to diagnose cerebral palsy if their child's birth or prenatal process has some common risks. These factors could include the following:
- Maternal infection
- Premature birth (babies born prematurely are much more likely to suffer a brain injury)
- Low birth weight
- A protracted and challenging labor
- Multiple births
- Infertility treatment
- Exposure to toxic substances during pregnancy
- The mother had flu-like symptoms from a condition called Cytomegalovirus
The other disorders result from something that may have gone wrong in the birth process.
Cerebral Palsy and How It Affects Your Child
There are three primary types of cerebral palsy. Each type depends on the area of the brain that is injured. These are the three main types of cerebral palsy:
- Spastic cerebral palsy: according to the Centers for Disease Control, this is the most common form of the disease, making up about 80% of the cases. Children who suffer from spastic CP will have too much muscle tone.
- Dyskinetic cerebral palsy: the child will suffer from alternating stiff and loose muscles as there are problems transmitting messages between the brain and spinal cord. The child appears to have difficulty sitting still, as they can alternate between tense and floppy.
- Ataxic cerebral palsy primarily affects the child's balance and coordination. Children may also struggle with motor skills, such as grasping a writing instrument. Ataxic cerebral palsy is caused by a brain injury to the cerebellum before, during, or shortly after birth.
Early Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
Your child may show signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy shortly after birth. While parents may not know that their newborn baby has a brain injury, they may begin to realize it shortly after that. The prime symptoms of cerebral palsy are missed milestones, but there are other indicators that the child's parents may notice.
Here are some early signs of cerebral palsy that may appear in very young children:
- An abnormal muscle tone that seems either too stiff or floppy
- Random and uncontrolled movements
- Muscle spasms
- Abnormal posture
- Body tremors
- Delays in motor development
While movement disorders are the main symptom of CP, many children will also suffer other conditions that could result from brain injury and intellectual disabilities.
If parents notice any of these symptoms, they should see a child neurology doctor for further testing, especially if the child already has higher risk factors from something that may have happened during the delivery or the prenatal phase.
A thorough physical examination will also be beneficial when confirming the diagnosis of cerebral palsy.
Get Help When You Notice Delays in Your Child's Development
Parents may notice the first signs of cerebral palsy when the child has missed some early developmental milestones. Here are some developmental delays that children with cerebral palsy may encounter:
- Rolling over
- Holding or gripping a toy
- Pushing up when lying on the stomach
- Lack of normal reflexes
- Impaired muscle tone
- Unusual posture
- Restrictions in voluntary control
Cerebral palsy is a movement disorder and a disease affecting your child's motor skills. It can manifest itself in many different ways.
While not every developmental delay is a sign of something wrong, parents should at least take notice and raise the issue with the child's doctor. Based on the extent of the delays and the other things they may observe about the child, the doctor may order additional tests, such as a physical exam and blood tests, to diagnose cerebral palsy.
The Doctor Is Already Monitoring Your Child's Growth
While parents are the ones who observe the child's early development daily, your child is also undergoing frequent examinations by their doctor in their early months and years. It may be the doctor who may see some early signs that something is wrong.
A child may be sent to an orthopedic surgeon to ascertain delay in motor development and to another doctor to assess difficulty breathing or crying.
The doctor is already practicing developmental medicine when they treat your child—checking for delays and disabilities at 9, 18, and 24 months. The pediatrician may already notice motor delays at this time and refer you to a pediatric neurologist.
How Doctors Diagnose Cerebral Palsy
Your child's doctor can perform several tests to assess their neurological disorders when there are early indications of something wrong.
Here are some of the medical evaluations that your child's doctor may perform to examine the baby's brain:
- Computed tomography scan (CT Scan) and magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRIs): doctors will perform these tests to take a cross-sectional image of the child's brain. The doctor can look at the baby's head from multiple angles. The CT scan is a critical test as far as your legal case is concerned because it may also be able to tell you what caused the cerebral palsy (such as a birth injury or a mistake in the child's prenatal care)
- Cranial ultrasound: this test will use high-frequency sound waves to draw a picture of the brain for the doctor, who may be able to tell if there is an injury to a particular area that controls movement. Cranial ultrasounds may provide evidence of an infant's likelihood of having CP by allowing doctors to see an image of the brain tissue. Cranial ultrasound is a crucial exam in the diagnosis of cerebral palsy.
- Imaging tests: A magnetic resonance imaging exam will show the doctor a 3D view of the brain to reveal any damaged areas. Imaging tests require that the child is placed in the center of a hollow tube to get a magnetic scan of the brain. An MRI may reveal the severity and the cause of the child's cerebral palsy.
- Genetic testing may detect abnormalities in gene sequencing that are a sign of the condition. Roughly 10% of cerebral palsy cases result from genetics, as opposed to birth injury and medical malpractice.
- Developmental screening: a short test is given to see if the child has specific developmental delays, such as motor or movement delays. Some developmental screening tests are in the form of interviews or questionnaires completed by parents, and other tests that the doctor gives to the child to test hearing and if the child's meeting developmental milestones.
Doctors may order additional types of testing when they see a set of test results that could indicate that your child has a brain injury.
Physicians will usually use more than one of these tests to diagnose cerebral palsy.
FAQs Related to Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis
Our personal injury law firm knows that many families have unanswered questions concerning cerebral palsy and what legal options there are to hold those responsible for the harm due to negligence financially accountable.
Here are the answers to some questions that we are frequently asked about CP.
How Long After My Child Develops Cerebral Palsy Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?
Each state will have its statute of limitations to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. The clock begins to run when you know or should have known of your child's injury.
To be safe, you should contact an experienced cerebral palsy attorney when you first suspect your child has developmental problems.
How Much Is My Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit Worth?
The value of your case depends on your own specific and individual factors. Severe cases of cerebral palsy would be worth more. Much depends on the degree to which your child has been impacted and their treatment costs.
Most CP cases cost more than $1 million to treat, and that is before you are even paid for the pain and suffering that your child experienced.
How Long Will My Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit Take?
Medical malpractice lawsuits can take years from the diagnosis of cerebral palsy from start to finish. These complex lawsuits require you to learn and establish detailed scientific facts. You must prove that the doctor acted unreasonably under the circumstances, which is always challenging.
Beyond that, courts have crowded dockets and may not give you a hearing date for some time.
What is Early Intervention for Cerebral Palsy?
Early intervention is critical after diagnosing cerebral palsy. While CP results from brain damage that can never be healed, therapy can help your child adjust to the condition. With the correct type of therapy, they can learn to perform daily life activities and enhance their physical development.
Early interventions have the most significant impact on a child's outcome. Early intervention services are available in most states to assist both children and families:
- Speech therapy
- Physical therapy with adaptive equipment
- Occupational therapy
Does Diagnosing Cerebral Palsy in Most Children Take Time?
Even though you may have some indicators about your child's condition in the initial months of their life, most children are not diagnosed with cerebral palsy until around the age of two. Doctors often want to see the symptoms of cerebral palsy persist and perform extensive testing before they give a formal diagnosis.
A specialist may ask about your child's medical history and development, check for any symptoms of CP, and ask about any problems during your pregnancy, during the birth, or soon afterward. An assessment of your child's health and learning abilities may also be conducted to assess if age-appropriate developmental milestones are being met.
Although, in general, the average age of diagnosis for a child with spastic diplegia, a very common form of CP, is 18 months. No definitive tests confirm or rule out CP, especially in young babies.
Even when the child's signs and symptoms are present, and the child appears to have neurological problems, it may take a doctor some time to confirm cerebral palsy.
Birth Injury Attorneys Helping Families and Children With Developmental Delays
If your child's movement disorder was caused by medical negligence, we could help you. Our birth injury lawyers work with families of children who have suffered brain injuries.
We work to hold doctors responsible for what they did that injured your child.
A diagnosis of cerebral palsy leads to very high medical expenses and a lifetime of struggle for your child. Call us at (888) 424-5757 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation.
Once you have an accurate diagnosis, we can work on your behalf to obtain financial compensation.