The most common form of cerebral palsy is spastic cerebral palsy and represents over eighty percent of the cases diagnosed. Spasticity is the tension or rigidity of muscles and those who suffer from spasticity have difficulty with coordinated muscle movements due to the inability to tense or relax affected muscles.
This form of cerebral palsy varies in severity and children may suffer from symptoms in specific areas of the body such as on one side or in the upper or lower limbs. The degree of severity is a factor in determining the proper treatment plans and the child’s immediate and future needs.
Causes of Spastic Cerebral Palsy
The root cause of any form of cerebral palsy is an injury to the brain in areas critical to motor function and development. Most of the injuries resulting in the condition occur at the time of birth or in the weeks immediately preceding or following delivery. The most common causes of spastic cerebral palsy include the following.
- Elevated bilirubin levels following an injury— birth injuries themselves are very common due to the nature of giving birth and the amount of physical stress placed on both the mother and child. When injuries result in internal bleeding, bilirubin is produced to aid in the healing process. Newborns are unable to rid their bodies of excess bilirubin, however, and it will build up in the brain and cause swelling that eventually results in brain damage.
- Severe trauma to the head— injuries that result from blunt force to the head may cause traumatic brain injuries that can result in the development of cerebral palsy. Dropping the child or hitting his or her head against an object in the first days or weeks following birth can have devastating consequences.
- Assisted delivery device misuse— the use of forceps or vacuums may be required during a difficult delivery but the attending physician must weigh the risks of using these devices before electing to proceed. In some cases, a cesarean section is less risky and would not result in the same trauma to the child’s head and it is the doctor’s duty to ensure the safety of both the child and mother during the delivery process. The injuries sustained by the use of these devices can be mild and treatable but in some cases the trauma is so severe that it becomes the direct cause of brain damage.
- Infections— children are more prone to infections following birth because their immune response has not had time to develop or adapt. Encephalitis and meningitis are two common infections that may result in brain damage if not detected and treated quickly.
- Hemorrhaging— injuries sustained during or following birth may result in uncontrolled or excessive bleeding. When the blood has no place to go, it will build inside the brain and the swelling that follows is what causes the damage to the brain.
Symptoms of Spastic Cerebral Palsy
When moving major muscle groups, muscles work opposite of one another to perform desired movements. Spasticity makes one or more of the muscles required in a movement rigid and inflexible, making it difficult to perform gross motor functions such as standing, walking or running. Symptoms include the following.
- Inability to flex or relax limbs— children with cerebral palsy may exhibit signs of spasticity if their limbs remain in a constant state or flexion such as constantly having fingers clenched into a fist or having the wrists, elbows or knees remain in an abnormal or bent position.
- Poor fine motor skills— fine motor skills control the ability to perform smaller and more precise movements such as those required to tie a shoe, lift a pen or button a shirt. One of the signs of spasticity is when a child is unable to properly grip onto an object or maintain that grip.
- Difficulty balancing and poor posture— communication between the brain and postural muscles is often affected, making it difficult to stand, sit down, chance positions or maintain posture. Children displaying symptoms may exhibit difficulty in tasks that require the use of the core such as rolling over or crawling and fall behind their peers in learning how to walk or run.
- Oral motor difficulties— the inability to control muscles responsible for forming words or making sound can make it difficult for children to learn how to speak. In many cases, the child is able to comprehend language but simply cannot respond audibly. The impairment of oral motor functions can also make it difficult to chew, swallow and breathe and may cause drooling and secondary conditions such as infections and pneumonia.
Treatment of Spastic Cerebral Palsy
The treatment that is right for each child will depend on the severity of his or her condition and personal needs. Physical therapy is often a key component in helping children suffering from cerebral palsy reach independence and they may also require speech and occupational therapy in order to develop communication skills and learn to cope properly with their condition. Cerebral palsy is often accompanied by associative and secondary conditions so the treatment plan for each child may be modified to account for these conditions as they manifest over time.
Get Legal Help From Attorneys Experienced With Spastic Cerebral Palsy Cases
The lifetime cost of treating cerebral palsy averages nearly $1 million and the child’s family may suffer additional financial loss due to the requirement that one of the caregivers sacrifice his or her job in order to stay home. It is important to evaluate your options and investigate whether medical negligence was a contributing factor in your child’s injury so that you are able to seek compensation from whoever is responsible. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers have successfully represented families in cerebral palsy lawsuits similar to your own and may be able to help you find the answers and the financial security that you need to be able to care for your child.
Contact us today to arrange a free consultation with an attorney who can answer your questions, evaluate your case and advise you on your legal options. We will only require payment for our resources and time if we successfully secure compensation on your behalf.