Cerebral palsy (CP) can be caused by any damage or trauma to a child’s brain before the child is 3 years of age, when the brain is finished developing. Some causes of cerebral palsy include blunt head trauma, car accidents, near drowning and abuse. Often, the injury to the child’s brain that causes the cerebral palsy occurs during or near the time of birth. Conditions such as a lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain and brain bleeds caused by trauma are birth injuries that can cause cerebral palsy. A brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation, called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), is one of the most common causes of cerebral palsy and seizures. In fact, almost a third of children with cerebral palsy have seizure disorders.
WHAT IS CEREBRAL PALSY?
Cerebral palsy is the most common cause of physical disability in children, and it is caused by damage to the motor centers of the brain. CP is a group of disorders that cause the child to struggle with movement, posture, coordination and balance. The motor problems are not caused by damage to the muscles themselves; the problems are due to dysfunctional communication between the brain, nerves and muscles.
Cerebral palsy is different in every child. Some children have 2 or 3 limbs affected and some kids are essentially paralyzed from the neck down. CP can cause problems with numerous muscles throughout the body. Children with cerebral palsy may have oral-facial muscle problems, making it difficult to eat, drink and speak. Kids may also have difficulty controlling their bladder and other muscle functions.
Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type of CP, affecting approximately 70 – 90% of people with CP. Normally, muscles coordinate in pairs, so when one group of muscles contracts (tightens), the other group relaxes. This is what allows a child to move about freely. When a child has spastic cerebral palsy, dysfunctional communication from the brain causes problems with balanced muscle tension and movement. Different groups that are supposed to relax and contract in at the same time become active all at the same time, which prevents coordinated movement. The muscles in children with spastic cerebral palsy are constantly stiff, or spastic, which means they have stiff, jerky movements stemming from an abnormally high muscle tone.
Balance problems and stiffness in the child’s body movement can range from barely noticeable to misalignments so pronounced that the child needs crutches or a cane to assist in being upright. Many children need a wheelchair. Above the hips, children with spastic cerebral palsy often retain normal or near-normal muscle tone and range of motion, though some spasticity may also affect the upper body. Because leg tightness often leads to instability when in an upright position, children with spastic cerebral palsy can develop extra muscle tension in their upper body, shoulders and arms due to the upper body trying to compensate for the instability of the lower body.
WHAT CAUSES CEREBRAL PALSY?
Car accidents, near drowning, abuse and anything that causes oxygen deprivation or trauma to the brain while it is still developing can cause cerebral palsy. Labor and delivery is a common time for complications to occur that cause trauma, a lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain and infection. Listed below are some of the most common causes of birth injuries that lead to cerebral palsy.
Non-genetic Causes of cerebral palsy and birth injuries include:
Failure to quickly deliver a baby when she is being deprived of oxygen in the womb. This will manifest as fetal distress on the fetal heart rate monitor. When a baby is in distress, a C-section delivery is usually the fastest and safest way to deliver the baby.
- Ruptured uterus (womb)
- Preeclampsia / eclampsia
- Placenta previa
- Umbilical cord problems, such as a nuchal cord (cord wrapped around the baby’s neck) or umbilical cord prolapse
- Failure to quickly deliver a baby when fetal distress is evident on the fetal heart rate monitor (delayed emergency C-section)
- Oligohydramnios (low amniotic fluid)
- Premature rupture of the membranes (PROM) / premature birth
- Prolonged and arrested labor
- Intracranial hemorrhages (brain bleeds), which can be caused by a traumatic delivery. Forceps and vacuum extractors can cause brain bleeds. Sometimes intense contractions (hyperstimulation) caused by labor induction drugs (Pitocin and Cytotec) can cause head trauma. Mismanagement of cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD), abnormal presentations (face or breech presentation), and shoulder dystocia also put a child at risk of having a brain bleed.
- Hyperstimulation caused by Pitocin and Cytotec can also cause oxygen deprivation that gets progressively worse.
- Fetal stroke
- Placental abruption
- Improper management of anemia (low red blood cell count), which can cause the baby to lack the capacity to carry oxygen to the cells and tissues in the body, including brain cells.
- Improper management of the baby’s respiratory status after birth. This includes failure to properly manage apnea (periods of breathing cessation), failure to properly manage a baby on a breathing machine (which can cause overventilation injuries, such as hypocarbia and a hole or holes in the lungs), and failure to give proper amounts of surfactant, which helps with lung maturity and lung compliance in premature lungs.
Other conditions that can damage a baby’s brain and cause cerebral palsy include the following:
- Brain infection such as meningitis, which can be caused by infections in the mother that travel to the baby at birth. These maternal infections include the following: Group B Strep (GBS), herpes simplex virus (HSV), urinary tract infection (UTI), bacterial vaginosis (BV) and chorioamnionitis.
- Untreated or improperly treated neonatal hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
- Untreated or improperly treated high bilirubin levels (jaundice) that cause a form of brain damage called kernicterus.
- Anesthesia mistakes during delivery, which can cause blood pressure problems in the mother, including a hypotensive crisis.
HOW CAN A BIRTH INJURY ATTORNEY HELP MY CHILD WHO AS CEREBRAL PALSY?
Most of the labor and delivery complications discussed above injure the baby because they cause a lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain. Brain injury can be prevented if physicians quickly recognize the complications – which almost always manifest as a non-reassuring heart tracings on the fetal monitor – and then deliver the baby right away so she can breathe on her own and be helped by the medical team. Physicians are also supposed to diagnose infections in the mother and take actions to prevent the transmission of them to the baby. In addition, dangerous delivery devices, such as forceps and vacuum extractors, should only be used in limited circumstances, and only by skilled physicians who have obtained informed consent from the mother. Permanent injury often occurs when physicians fail to closely monitoring the baby’s heart rate, as well as signs and symptoms in the mother indicative of complications.
The award winning attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers focus solely on birth injury cases and have been helping children throughout the country for almost 3 decades. The attorneys believe that any person whose negligence causes a child to be afflicted with cerebral palsy should be held responsible. Reiter & Walsh are very passionate about helping children obtain the compensation they need for lifelong treatment, therapy and a secure future, and they take a lot of time getting to know each child and family they are helping so they can fully understand the child’s needs.
There are many lawyers in Michigan who call themselves “cerebral palsy lawyers” or “birth injury attorneys.” Jesse Reiter, co-founder of ABC Law Centers, is the only attorney in Michigan who has spent his entire 28+ year career focusing on birth injury cases, and most of his cases involve children with cerebral palsy. Jesse helps children in Michigan and throughout the nation, and he spends a great deal of time getting to know the child and family he is helping so he can completely understand the child’s needs. Jesse has won numerous awards for his advocacy of children, and he is currently recognized as being one of the best medical malpractice attorneys in America by U.S. News and World Report 2014, as well as one of the 10 Best Attorneys in Michigan by Super Lawyers magazine.
Cerebral palsy is a difficult area of law to pursue due to the complex nature of the disorder and the medical records that support it. The award winning attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have decades of experience with cerebral palsy cases. To find out if you have a case, contact our nationally recognized firm to speak with an experienced cerebral palsy attorney. We give personal attention to each child and family we help. Our attorneys handle cases in Michigan, Ohio, Washington, D.C. and throughout the nation. We have numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success and no fees are ever paid to our firm until we win your case. Email or call us at 888-419-2229. Our award winning attorneys are available to speak with you 24 / 7.