Cerebral palsy is one of the most commonly recognized and devastating forms of childhood brain injury. In some cases, CP can be attributed to genetic mutations or other physiological abnormalities. In others, it may be attributed to trauma such as lack of oxygen at some stage of pregnancy, labor, or delivery. Sometimes, physical trauma or exposure to toxins could be a contributing factor. Whatever the cause, the condition can have a lifelong impact on a child and his or her family, including a diminished quality of life and substantial medical bills. If medical malpractice caused your baby’s brain injury, our birth injury attorneys can help you determine liability, hold that person accountable, and pursue compensation for future expenses.
Birth Trauma and Brain Injury
The term birth trauma most often refers to a “mechanical” injury that takes place during labor or childbirth. A traumatic birth can be attributed to factors such as the size of the baby and/or the shape of the mother’s pelvis.
Birth trauma also can refer to errors the medical staff made during delivery, such as failing to monitor fetal oxygen levels, delaying cesarean section, or exerting too much force while performing a vacuum extraction. Oxygen deprivation can damage tissues and organs.
Potential risk factors and/or causes include:
- severe jaundice (pdf) and kernicterus (pdf);
- Rh incompatibility (pdf);
- maternal infections (e.g. rubella, chickenpox, cytomegalovirus (pdf), toxoplasmosis (pdf), etc.);
- infant infections (e.g. meningitis (pdf), encephalitis (pdf), etc.);
- fetal stroke;
- insufficient oxygen in the womb;
- insufficient oxygen during labor and delivery;
- trauma during birth; and
- infant head injuries (e.g. car accidents, falls, etc.);
Delays in treatment of medical emergencies and mismanagement of care, such as failing to properly address a maternal infection or to treat jaundice after birth may be considered negligent behavior and could warrant a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Statistics and Symptoms
According to CerebralPalsy.org (pdf), it affects about 764,000 children and adults, nearly 500,000 children under age 18, and approximately three children per every 1,000.
- Almost 10,000 babies develop CP each year;
- between 8,000 and 10,000 babies are diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year; and
- between 1,200 and 1,500 toddlers are diagnosed with it each year.
CP may cause seizures, difficulty sucking or swallowing, and other symptoms, such as:
- abnormal muscle tone (stiff or floppy muscles);
- problems with muscle coordination;
- abrupt, uncontrolled movements;
- slow, writhing movement;
- favoritism of one side of the body (developing handedness too early); and/or
- sensory problems (vision, hearing, touch).
Unfortunately, the condition cannot be reversed. Once a patient has been stabilized, medical providers (and parents) must think in the long term. Physical and occupational therapy can greatly improve the lives of the young patient, but these treatments can add up over a lifetime.
Cleveland malpractice attorney Chris Mellino has tried many cases in which a medical error or negligent act led to a birth injury that resulted in cerebral palsy or other brain damage. To learn whether you have a viable claim against your physician, contact us for a free consultation, or request our free guide to filing a claim in Ohio.