If your infant has experienced a seizure, you know how frightening the situation can be. But did you know that it could be a sign of neurological birth injury? Seizures occur when nerve cells in the brain fire abnormally due to nerve damage, oxygen deprivation, high fever or issues with brain chemistry. When they occur in newborns as a result of oxygen deprivation, nerve damage or brain chemistry, it may be due to a traumatic birth injury.
Types of seizures in newborns
Seizures in newborns are categorized as subtle, clonic, tonic or myoclonic:
- Subtle seizures, as the name implies, are often difficult to see. They occur most frequently in premature infants and are the most frequent type, comprising about 50% of all newborn seizures. There may be some bicycling-type movement, fixation of gaze, or repetitive facial movements.
- Clonicseizures in infants are marked by a slow rhythmic jerk of one part of the body. This type of seizure represents about 25% of all seizures in newborns.
- Myoclonc seizuresinvolve rapid twitching or jerking movements and are the most serious often indicating severe brain damage. Premature babies are the most afflicted group.
- Tonic seizuresaccount for about 5% of infants with seizures and cause sustained contractions. Sometimes the eyes may roll upward and breathing may stop for a period of time.
Rate of incidence and causes
Neonatal seizures within the first few days of birth occur in about 20 to 35 cases per 10,000 births. The most common cause of neonatal seizures is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) or birth asphyxia. This is a medical condition where a newborn has been deprived of oxygen at or around the time of birth. It is estimated that as many as 80% of neonatal seizures are due to HIE. Cord compression; problems with the placenta or uterus such as a ruptured uterus or placenta previa (placenta is attached to the uterine wall close to or covering the cervix); fetal distress; trauma to the baby’s brain during delivery; and delayed delivery are some of the medical emergencies that could result in HIE and seizures.
Medical staff must plan appropriately for these kinds of obstetrical risks. Furthermore, they must effectively handle situations that may arise during delivery in order to minimize the possibility of HIE. This includes:
- Appropriate prenatal care, including assessment of risk factors such as macrosomic (large) baby, cephalopelvic disproportion (baby too large for mother’s pelvis), preeclampsia (mother’s elevated blood pressure), and infection.
- Diagnose and treat preterm labor.
- Effectively manage labor and delivery, including timely c-section if situation dictates (e.g. cord compression, fetal distress) or correct use of forceps or vacuum.
- Respond appropriately to non-reassuring fetal heart tones and distress during labor and delivery.
Failure by doctors or other health care professionals to do these things could be considered negligence.
Newborns that experience seizure due to brain injuries often have other problems like cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and other neurological issues. If your child has a seizure disorder – with or without other neurological problems – a review of medical records can determine whether negligence played a role in causing your child’s seizures. The birth injury attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers can help. We have the knowledge and professional experience to thoroughly examine the complex medical records of your child’s case, determine whether there was an error or negligence, and help you obtain the monetary compensation your child deserves. Contact the Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers in Detroit, Michigan today.