Do all children with brain damage have cerebral palsy?

Not all children with brain damage have cerebral palsy. How brain damage affects a child depends on the location and extent of the brain injury. If the brain damage does not affect a child’s motor control, the child will not be diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Children with brain damage may have other issues such as intellectual disabilities, behavior problems, learning disabilities or vision problems. The resultant challenges or disabilities depend on where the injury is located.

Knowing the location of a brain injury can give some information regarding what type of complications a child will face long term. Of course, the outcome cannot be determined solely based on the assessment of the injury’s location. Important items to remember include the fact that brain injury is an evolving process. When a brain injury is suspected, head imaging is typically performed within 12 – 24 hours of the brain insult. Brain imaging studies must be continuous because an injury can evolve over days, weeks, and even months. Examining the progression of injury as well as the final extent of the damage is very important.

Brain damage from birth injury may not always cause cerebral palsy, but early intervention is always important

There are many factors that contribute to how a brain injury will affect a child long term. One factor is early intervention. Physical therapy can be started when a child is just a few months old. Another important treatment is called hypothermia (brain cooling) treatment. Hypothermia treatment has been shown to halt almost every cellular process involved in the progression of brain injury. Brain cooling must take place within 6 hours of the insult that caused the brain injury. Hospitals have criteria the physicians use to determine if a child qualifies for hypothermia treatment. If a child is diagnosed with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), they almost always qualify for brain cooling therapy. A diagnosis of HIE can be made without brain imaging (although imaging must be performed as soon as possible).

Signs of brain injury in a baby include the following:

  • Seizures within the first 24 – 48 hours of delivery
  • Low Apgar scores for more than 5 minutes.  An Apgar score assesses the overall health of a newborn over the first few minutes of life. It assigns scores to factors such as the baby’s complexion, pulse rate, reflexes, muscle tone, and breathing.
  • Failure to breathe immediately after delivery/the baby needed to be resuscitated
  • The baby’s blood is acidic/has a low pH (acidosis)
  • Difficulty feeding, including the inability to latch, suck, or swallow
  • Abnormal limpness
  • Poor head position
  • Multiple organ problems (e.g., the involvement of the lungs, liver, heart, intestines)
  • No brain stem reflexes (e.g., breathing problems and an abnormal response to light, and only blood pressure and heart function reflexes are functioning)
  • Hypotonia (low muscle tone)

Children with brain injuries can have muscle function disorders such as those seen in cerebral palsy. Alternatively, children with brain damage may have normal motor function but may have intellectual, perceptual, emotional, attention, or speech and language problems. There are treatments and therapies for all of these issues. The key is early recognition and intervention.

Legal Help for Cerebral Palsy and Medical Malpractice | Detroit, Michigan Birth Injury Attorneys

At Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers, we understand how much support is required to care for a child with cerebral palsy or other permanent disabilities. If your child or loved one was diagnosed with permanent injuries, disabilities, or cerebral palsy due to medical negligence, we can help your family obtain the funds necessary to pursue the care they need. Our attorneys exclusively handle birth injury and cerebral palsy cases, so we are equipped with the skill, experience, and knowledge necessary to win these complex cases. We encourage you to reach out for a free legal consultation with our attorneys today. To start your free case review, please contact our birth injury law firm in whichever way best suits your needs:

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