Cerebral palsy is a broad medical term. It describes several different disorders. It arises from brain or central nervous system damage that a child may suffer in utero, during labor and delivery or from trauma or complications shortly after birth.
Cerebral palsy is non-progressive. It won’t get worse over time. However, cerebral palsy is a permanent condition. It can be managed through surgery, therapy and adaptive devices, but it cannot be cured. Often, cerebral palsy is caused by mistakes made by healthcare providers when providing prenatal or post-natal care or during delivery.
If a medical provider’s negligence has caused your child to suffer cerebral palsy, Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., can help to seek compensation that can include funds that will pay for your past and future medical costs. Call or contact us online today to speak with a cerebral palsy lawyer. Be aware of the time limits for cerebral palsy cases.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Brain damage or central nervous system damage is the underlying cause of cerebral palsy. Many factors can lead to this damage, including:
Problems Before Birth
Unfortunately, things can go wrong during pregnancy that prevent the proper development of a child’s brain and lead to cerebral palsy. Some of the potential problems that can occur before the child is born that cause CP include:
- A maternal infection such as rubella, toxoplasmosis or cytomegalovirus
- Rh incompatibility (when the mother’s immune system rejects the baby)
- An infection in the fetus
- A genetic disorder
- Insufficient oxygen to the fetus.
Doctors need to be aware of the potential risk factors and watch for signs that either the mother or baby are in distress during pregnancy.
Providing proper pre-natal care is a duty that all physicians and healthcare providers owe to their patients. Mistakes can lead to a medical negligence lawsuit if the doctor’s error is found to have caused cerebral palsy to occur.
Problems During Labor and Delivery
Problems during labor and delivery typically stem from either deprivation of oxygen to the brain or external force and trauma. Some of the different causes of cerebral palsy that can occur during labor and delivery include:
- Excessive Pitocin use to induce labor
- Prolonged labor
- Failure to respond to fetal distress
- Shoulder dystocia (a medical emergency that can result in deprivation of oxygen)
- An umbilical cord becoming wrapped around the baby’s neck
- Excessive use of a vacuum or forceps, causing external trauma to the brain
- Stroke during labor and delivery.
Problems After Birth
Finally, a baby can sustain brain damage and develop cerebral palsy as a result of problems or complications after birth. Some of the potential causes of CP that happen after a child is born include:
- Severe or untreated jaundice
- Deprivation of oxygen to the brain from drowning, choking or other causes
- Toxic exposure, including lead poisoning
- Head trauma
- Brain infections such as meningitis.
In some cases, doctors or healthcare providers are responsible for these post-birth causes of CP as well. For example, if a doctor fails to recognize and treat jaundice, he or she can be held liable if a child develops cerebral palsy.
Each of these different causes can result in brain cells dying or lesions forming on the brain. When the brain damage occurs, it is permanent and incurable. The child will experience the symptoms for the rest of his or her life.
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy symptoms vary depending on the portion of the brain that was affected. The symptoms usually become apparent once a child has reached six months of age and begun moving or attempting to communicate. The child may miss developmental milestones such as walking, talking or crawling.
Common manifestations of brain damage that results in cerebral palsy include:
- Delays in reaching normal developmental milestones such as rolling over, crawling, sitting up or walking
- Muscle tone problems, which refers to muscles being too tight or too lose
- Tight joints or joints with limited range of motion
- Involuntary movements such as spasms and tremors
- Slow or labored body movements
- Balance problems
- Difficulty coordinating voluntary movements
- Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as problems picking up or holding objects
- Problems walking or abnormal gait such as scissor or toe walking
- Slow or impaired reflexes
- Inability to stand upright or other posture problems
- Speech difficulties
- Swallowing difficulties
- Excessive drooling
- Difficulty consuming food
- Vision problems
- Hearing problems
- Ongoing pain
- Cognitive impairments
- Learning disabilities
- Inability to control the bladder or bowels.
By the time a child has reached the age of six, doctors and care providers should be able to diagnose how badly his or her lifelong impairment will be. The child’s cerebral palsy can also be classified into one of four types or categories of the disease.
When Do Symptoms Appear?
The symptoms of cerebral palsy may begin to appear as soon as a child reaches six months. At this age, children normally start to communicate and move around on their own. A parent may notice that the child is not meeting these development milestones. By age six, the full extent of the child’s impairment should be known.
Parents whose children experienced problems during labor and delivery should be especially alert to possible cerebral palsy symptoms and should consult with a medical expert and an experienced medical malpractice lawyer if they suspect that a healthcare provider’s negligence may have caused their child to suffer harm.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
The different types of cerebral palsy that a child may be diagnosed with include:
- Spastic Cerebral Palsy – This is generally caused by an upper motor neuron lesion. It can cause erratic, jerky movements and problems relaxing the muscles.
- Athetoid Cerebral Palsy – This is a problem with muscles that are too tense or too loose – usually because of damage to area of the brain that controls coordination, reflexes and involuntary movements.
- Ataxic Cerebral Palsy – This occurs when there is a problem in the cerebellum. It causes problems with muscle movements, coordination and balance
- Mixed cerebral palsy – When something happens that causes cerebral palsy, such as deprivation of oxygen to a child’s brain during birth, different portions of the brain may all be affected. This can lead to severe impairment.
Cerebral palsy can require the lifelong use of adaptive medical devices, therapy and other care. This can be devastating to the child and to the family, especially when the cerebral palsy was caused by a medical error that could have been avoided. These mistakes can be made by:
- Gynecologists and obstetricians
Any medical professional who fails to live up to the obligation to provide reasonable care can be held legally responsible if the failure directly causes brain damage and cerebral palsy. In some cases, care providers can be held accountable not only for their own mistakes but also for the errors of their employees. For example, if a hospital employs a careless doctor, that doctor’s negligence will be treated as the hospital’s negligence.
Contact Our Chicago Cerebral Palsy Attorneys
At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., we understand how frightening it is to face a cerebral palsy diagnosis for your child. We also know it can be overwhelming to think about taking legal action. However, Illinois law gives you the right to be fully and fairly compensated for all your losses, including funds to cover your child’s medical care.
Our cerebral palsy attorneys have extensive experience helping clients with cerebral palsy and other birth injuries in the Chicago and Illinois area. We can help to eliminate the stress by putting our legal knowledge of cerebral palsy cases to work for you.
When you are ready to schedule a free consultation about your case, you can reach us by phone or through our online form.