The medical malpractice attorneys at the Brannon Law Firm handle birth injury cases, including those involving Cerebral Palsy. If your child has been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and you believe that it may have been caused by medical malpractice or medical negligence, it is in your benefit to seek out more information. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can determine if medical mistakes were at fault in causing Cerebral Palsy. Information on what Cerebral Palsy is and what it might mean for you and your child can be found below. Additionally, the medical malpractice attorneys at the Brannon Law Firm invite you to contact us, either at 937-228-2306 or 1-800-VERDICT so that we can discuss whether you may have a claim for medical malpractice.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy is neurological disorder caused by brain injury occurring while the brain is still under development. Cerebral Palsy refers to a condition where damage to the brain results in loss or impairment of muscle control or function. Cerebral Palsy is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder, which means the damage or injury to the brain occurred while the brain was still developing. This damage during development means that the part of the brain which was injured could not develop correctly, and thus cannot properly perform the function it is supposed to control. This damage can occur before birth, during birth, or immediately after birth. Cerebral Palsy is often diagnosed shortly following childbirth. However, diagnoses can happen throughout childhood, and in many cases, the full extent of Cerebral Palsy symptoms may take years to fully discover.
Cerebral Palsy can affect the body in many different ways, most of which entail some form of physical impairment. Cerebral Palsy may affect general body movement, coordination or control of muscles, muscle tone, body reflexes, body posture, or balance. It may also affect motor skills, both fine and general, as well as oral motor functioning, thus affecting an individual’s ability to speak. Cerebral Palsy can affect the arms, legs, or even the face of an individual, and may affect one limb, several limbs, or all of them. Cerebral Palsy can also cause other complications, including intellectual impairment, seizures, and vision or hearing impairment.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
There are three major classifications for Cerebral Palsy.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy, which accounts for the majority of Cerebral Palsy cases (roughly 70%). Spastic Cerebral Palsy is characterized by tight or stiff muscles, which can create awkward or uncontrolled muscle movements. Spastic Cerebral Palsy is caused by damage to the upper motor neurons in the brain, resulting in an inability to inhibit muscle activity. Those with Spastic Cerebral Palsy may experience Hypertonia, which is an abnormal increase in muscle activity. This explains why some with Cerebral Palsy have a ‘scissor gait’, which is caused by constantly flexing adductor muscles in their legs, forcing their thighs and knees together. It also explains why some with Cerebral Palsy have a ‘toe walk’, which is caused by a constantly flexing calf muscle, tightening the Achilles tendon and forcing the individual up on their toes.
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy, also known as Athetoid Cerebral Palsy. Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy is characterized by involuntary muscle movements. Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy is caused by damange to the Basal Ganglia, a part of the brain that controls the ability to initiate or prevent muscle movements. This damage results in the individual being unable to prevent muscle movements, and muscles will move without the individual’s active intent. Movements caused by Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy can fall into three subcategories.
- Dystonia: Repetitive and twisting movements
- Athetosis: Random, slow, or uncontrolled movements
- Chorea: Random dance-like movements that are unpredictable.
- Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy is characterized by shaky or uncoordinated movements. Ataxic Cerebral Palsy is caused by damage to the cerebellum, which is the part of the brain that controls coordination and precise movement. Individuals with Ataxic Cerebral Palsy are often clumsy at fine motor skills, and may having trouble performing tasks such as picking up objects or keeping balance when walking.
Additionally, it is possible to have a mixed formed of Cerebral Palsy, where an individual may suffer from more than one version of Cerebral Palsy.
Individuals with Cerebral Palsy may also have other symptoms as well.
- Pain: Cerebral Palsy may cause someone to experience pain, potentially from tight muscles, an abnormal posture, or from stiff joints.
- Sleep disorders: Cerebral Palsy may cause someone to develop a sleeping disorder, likely due to the difficulty in obtaining restful sleep with constantly moving or abnormally moving muscles throughout the night.
- Eating disorders: Cerebral Palsy may cause someone to developing an eating disorder due to the difficulty one may have in eating, in either the preparation of food or in the process of chewing and swallowing that food.
- Other: Cerebral Palsy may cause someone to have trouble with things such as speaking or communication, potential difficulty with vision, or even learning disabilities due to their condition created by Cerebral Palsy.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
As mentioned previously, Cerebral Palsy is caused by damage to a brain while it is still developing. The damage may occur before, during, or after childhood.
What caused this damage can be varied and can also be hard to discover. Sometimes the damage is caused by unavoidable occurrences and sometimes it is the result of medical malpractice or medical negligence. Sometimes the damage could have been avoided if certain steps or actions had been taken.
The following are some risk factors that have been linked to Cerebral Palsy.
- Infection, a seizure disorder, thyroid disorder, or other medical problems with the mother
- Birth defects affecting the brain, spinal cord, head, face, lungs, or metabolism
- Some hereditary conditions
- Complications occurring during labor and delivery
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Multiple births, such as twins or triplets
- Lack of oxygen (hypoxia) before, during, or after birth
- Brain damage occurring early in life, such as due to infection, head injury, lack of oxygen, or bleeding.
Cerebral Palsy can also result from damage caused by completely avoidable causes as well. These may include accidents, abuse, injury, and medical malpractice or negligence. The following are some potential examples of medical malpractice or negligence that could cause Cerebral Palsy.
- Failure to recognize preeclampsia
- Failure to diagnose or treat a maternal infection, such as rubella, cytomegalovirus, or toxoplasmosis
- Failure to recognize fetal distress
- Delayed delivery
- Failure to perform a C-section during fetal distress
- Excessive use of a vacuum extractor
- Failure to detect a prolapsed umbilical cord
- Improper use of forceps during delivery
- Oxygen deprivation during birth, which can be caused by prolonged labor
- Oxygen deprivation or prolapsed umbilical cord due to Breech Birth
- Overuse of Pitocin, a drug used to induce labor
- Premature birth
- Failure to diagnose and treat infant seizures
- Failure to diagnose and treat jaundice or meningitis
Treatment of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy is treatable, but the process is often complex, long-term, and costly.
Cerebral Palsy is a permanent abnormality of the brain. As such, it is not curable. However, it is treatable. Additionally, Cerebral Palsy is considered non-progressive. This means that it does not get worse over time. Whatever level of Cerebral Palsy an individual has when they develop the disorder will remain constant. Generally, Cerebral Palsy is not considered life threatening, and most individuals with Cerebral Palsy are expected to live into their adulthood years. However, there are rare occasions were a Cerebral Palsy case may be severe enough to put someone with Cerebral Palsy at risk for a shortened life span.
Treatment of Cerebral Palsy is possible, but is often complex. The effects of Cerebral Palsy are chronic and long-term, as an individual with Cerebral Palsy will have that condition for their entire life. However, with the goal of enhancing independence and reducing obstacles, Cerebral Palsy can be managed through treatment.
Treatment of Cerebral Palsy is often multidisciplinary. It can involve work and participation from neurologists, rehabilitation specialists, occupational therapist, and speech therapists.
The key aspect about treatment of Cerebral Palsy is that each Cerebral Palsy case is unique to the individual and, as such, the treatment of that Cerebral Palsy case will need to be unique as well. The goal is to develop a specific treatment plan for that individual, with the aim of increasing their quality of life.
Cerebral Palsy treatment can take many forms. The following are some examples. Treatment may include physical therapy to help an individual adapt to their lack of motor control. It may also include the use of muscle relaxants or the injection of botulinum toxin into certain muscles in order to reduce the excessive muscle movement or to reduce pain. A person with Cerebral Palsy may also benefit from an orthotic brace in order to help create stability, build strength, or provide more comfort.
Surgery is also a possibility. Surgery could be performed in order to loosen muscles, straighten bones that may have malformed due to abnormal muscle movements, or even to cut certain nerves in order to reduce muscle movements or spasms.
Seeking Legal Counsel and Guidance
If your child has been diagnosed with a form of Cerebral Palsy, and you believe potential medical malpractice or medical negligence may be the cause, then seeking out legal counsel and guidance should be your next step.
Cerebral Palsy can be caused by medical malpractice and/or medical negligence, especially during childbirth. It may be the result of medical staff not properly monitoring the fetal vital signs and failing to recognize fetal distress. It may also be the result of improperly administered medical procedures, such as use of forceps, vacuum extraction, or labor inducing drugs. And it may also be as simple as not having a proper plan in place to respond to potential issues, resulting in a lack of action or an improper action during a critical moment.
If you are unsure about the cause of your child’s Cerebral Palsy, here are some key issues to take note of which may indicate a greater chance of medical malpractice or medical negligence being the cause of your child’s Cerebral Palsy.
- Placement of new-born child in the Pediatric Intensive Care (PICU), the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or the Critical Care Unit (CCU).
- Hypoxic Injury
- Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
- Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL)
- Intraventricular Hemorrhage (IVH)
- Brain injury (such as hemorrhage or bleeding) being discovered in an MRI, Brain CT, or Ultrasound of the brain
- Respiratory Distress Syndrome
The medical malpractice attorneys at the Brannon Law Firm have the skill and experience to discover whether your child’s Cerebral Palsy could have been avoided or prevented and to help ensure that your child can live the best life possible despite the diagnosis.
Medical malpractice and medical negligence is preventable. It is caused by the error, improper action, or lack of action by medical professionals. It is important to hold those medical professionals to the proper standards of care and to hold them accountable for the harm and damage they may cause. The Brannon Law Firm can help hold those at fault accountable.
Additionally, treatment for your child with Cerebral Palsy may be difficult, both financially and emotionally. Treatment is often complex due to the individual and unique nature of each Cerebral Palsy case and the subsequent need to create a treatment plan that is just as individual and unique. Such treatment may have the involvement of many different types of specialists or experts, from speech therapists to neurologists, and medical bills can be costly. Because Cerebral Palsy is not curable, your child will be living with the impairment for their entire life. However, this does not mean they cannot enjoy their best life possible, as treatment can give your child increased quality of life. The Brannon Law Firm can help ensure your child receives that treatment and the improved quality of life they deserve.
At the Brannon Law Firm, we have represented many families and infants who were unfortunate victims of preventable Cerebral Palsy. We have obtained favorable verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients in Cerebral Palsy cases. Our expertise extends in to multiple areas, including a history of large settlements in medical malpractice cases.
We invite you to contact us, either at 937-228-2306 or 1-800-VERDICT. We offer a free consultation. The Brannon Law Firm is proud to serve clients in Dayton and throughout the State of Ohio.