Cerebral palsy is usually caused by a brain injury that occurs before or during childbirth. Patients with cerebral palsy will face challenges that require a lifetime of treatments and therapies. At Whitehurst, Harkness, Brees, Cheng, Alsaffar, Higginbotham, & Jacob, PLLC, our cerebral palsy lawyers serve as advocates for affected children and their families and fight aggressively to ensure they get the compensation they need to pay for the cost of long-term treatments and high-quality care caused by birth injuries or medical malpractice.
Affecting nearly five thousand newborns each year, cerebral palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological impairments resulting from the faulty development of or damage to the part of the brain responsible for movement and motor function. Cerebral palsy can also be accompanied by stunted intellectual development and impaired hearing and vision, as well as behavioral problems and seizures. Although cerebral palsy doesn’t always cause acute disabilities, a child with the condition may find it difficult or even impossible to walk or speak. Children with severe cerebral palsy will require intensive, lifelong care.
Although several things can cause cerebral palsy, including a traumatic fall, a brain infection such as bacterial meningitis, or a blow to the head sustained in a motor vehicle accident, it can also result from medical malpractice. If the obstetrician fails to recognize and address complications during delivery such as a prolapsed umbilical cord, fetal distress, or a series of changes in fetal heart rate, the baby’s health may be in jeopardy. The improper use of forceps or vacuum extraction can also lead to the development of cerebral palsy.
Our firm is dedicated to representing families who have been affected by cerebral palsy or any other birth injury as a result of medical negligence. Our medical malpractice attorneys and staff have specialized medical training that assists and informs our research and preparation for malpractice cases. Our senior attorney is a pharmacist, and another team member is a registered nurse.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
The term cerebral palsy is used to describe any motor impairment caused by brain injury. There are different types of the disorder, including: spastic, athetoid and ataxic. Spastic cerebral palsy is generally associated with stiffness and problems with movement; athetoid cerebral palsy is associated with involuntary and uncontrolled movements; and ataxic cerebral palsy is associated with depth perception and balance problems.
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What Is Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy?
Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy is a global injury to the brain that may occur during labor that can result in cerebral palsy. If your child has been diagnosed with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy or HIE, your child’s medical records may need to be carefully evaluated by an experienced team to determine whether the brain injury occurred as a result of medical malpractice. Medical providers are trained to evaluate the signs and symptoms of oxygen deprivation that may cause HIE during labor and delivery. They are trained to evaluate the fetal monitor strip for variable or late decelerations, bradycardia, tachycardia, and other signs of oxygen deprivation. If they fail to meet the standard of care in evaluating the signs and symptoms that a baby is suffering from oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery, they may be committing malpractice.
Hypoxia means a deprivation of adequate oxygen supply. Ischemia is a deprivation of blood flow. When a restriction of blood flow depriving a baby’s brain of oxygen results in a global injury, the injury may be called a hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. HIE may cause seizures within the first 24 hours of birth. Partial or prolonged asphyxia is the usual cause of HIE in a baby born at term. Babies who suffer HIE during labor and delivery will develop cerebral palsy. Babies born with HIE may have abnormal readings on an EEG or MRI scan.
Infants born after an ischemic insult need immediate medical attention by trained medical professionals. Long-term follow up care by trained family practice doctors, neurologists, rehabilitation professionals, and even dental and eye doctors may be necessary. Over the course of the baby’s life, a trained medical provider can determine what medications, imaging studies, lab work, and therapy the baby born with an ischemic insult will need.
We have represented multiple parents of children with HIE caused by birth injury due to medical malpractice. We use our knowledge, experience, and contacts to find experienced physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors and nurses who are able to evaluate the long-term care needs of a baby born with HIE so that the baby’s medical and other needs can be met. In one case, for example, our expert life-care planner determined that our client’s child needed various treatment modalities, including: outpatient care by trained doctors, a case manager, medication, diagnostic tests, therapy, home attendant care, durable medical equipment/supplies, orthotics/prosthetics, Wheelchair/Power Mobility equipment, and housing modifications.
Cerebral Palsy Symptoms
The exact symptoms a patient will experience will depend on the area of the brain that is damaged as well as the severity of the injury. Affected infants may display some of the following signs:
- Stiffness in the legs
- Inability to control the head and neck when picked up (even as they get older and should develop control)
- Only using one hand reaching for something
- Only using half of the body when trying to crawl
- Not being able to stand on his/her own
- The symptoms can be difficult to detect until the child reaches about 2 or 3