Practice Areas

Cerebral Palsy

What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition. As the baby grows up, he or she will always need medical attention. Depending on the amount of brain damage, the cerebral palsy can vary in severity. Cerebral palsy can involve brain and nervous system functions such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing and thinking. As a result, the costs associated with caring for a person with cerebral palsy can be exorbitant.

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that results in a range of motor deficits, including compromised mobility, lack of muscle coordination, impaired vision and communication disorders. Spastic cerebral palsy is the most frequently observed type of the disorder, accounting for 80% of cases. Spastic cerebral palsy is characterized by hypertonia, or excessive tautness of the muscles. Muscular tension can produce uncontrollable spasms and contractions that sometimes lead to the premature development of arthritis or tendonitis. Patients with cerebral palsy exhibit a variety of symptoms, including:

– Muscular tightness that prevents full extension of the muscles of the arms and leg
– Joint contracture, or tightness resulting in restricted movement
– Low muscle tone, as well as debilitation or paralysis of muscles
– Abnormal manner of walking characterized by scissor-like movements due to poor balance and coordination
– Involuntary movements of the extremities, such as abrupt twists, jerks, tremors and spasms
– Bladder and bowel incontinence
– Irregular respiratory patterns
– Swallowing dysfunction
– Visual and auditory problems
– Difficulty with speech production due to lack of muscle control of speech articulators
– Epilepsy, observed in approximately one-third of patients diagnosed with cerebral palsy
– Cognitive deficits and learning disabilities

Cerebral palsy is usually attributed to irreversible brain damage that an infant sustains before birth, but it may sometimes be the consequence of neurological damage occurring during the delivery process or in the time frame subsequent to birth up to three years of age. Although physicians cannot always pinpoint the precise cause of this neurological disorder, there are several possible explanations that may account for the development of cerebral palsy. It can result from hypoxia, a decrease in the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the baby’s brain during delivery. Approximately one-half of patients diagnosed with cerebral palsy were premature infants, who have a greater risk of suffering from hypoxia. Another cause of cerebral palsy is brain damage that occurred prenatally due to the unborn infant’s exposure to rubella or other infections that the mother contracted and passed on to the fetus during her pregnancy. Cases of jaundice, characterized by yellow discoloration of the eyes and skin, can lead to cerebral palsy. Infants might suffer cerebral palsy if they contracted meningitis, a bacterial infection producing inflammation of the membranes that encase the baby’s brain. Viral encephalitis is another infection that causes brain swelling, which could lead to the development of cerebral palsy.

The law firm of O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble has significant experience handling medical malpractice cases involving the development of cerebral palsy. Although the majority of cerebral palsy cases result from brain damage that occurred before birth, a small percentage of cases are attributable to medical negligence during labor and delivery that results in an infant suffering oxygen deprivation. A physician might fail to identify signs of distress on a fetal monitor and fail to administer labor-inducing drugs or perform an emergency C-section to expedite delivery. The delay in delivery can exacerbate the infant’s hypoxia and lead to cerebral palsy. In an alternative scenario, an obstetrician may fail to realize that the umbilical cord has become dangerously intertwined around the fetus’ neck, thereby restricting the flow of oxygen to the baby’s brain. The improper implementation of instruments, such as forceps and vacuum extractors, during delivery can lead to physical trauma, such as brain hemorrhaging, or bleeding. Failure to timely diagnose jaundice and meningitis in an infant and to treat these illnesses appropriately could result in cerebral palsy and be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

If your baby was suffered a birth injury contact O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble. The initial consultation is free, confidential, and you are under no obligation. Contact us online or call at 1-908-928-9200 or 1-800-586-5817