Birth injuries can take many different forms. Although it is fairly uncommon, one of the most devastating conditions that may arise as a result of a birth injury is cerebral palsy (sometimes known as CP).
Cerebral palsy can have a number of different causes. In some cases, the exact cause of the condition is unknown.
What is known is the immense impact CP can have on children and their families. If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, it is important to speak to a Columbus birth injury lawyer at Colombo Law as soon as possible. You and your loved ones may be entitled to significant compensation.
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
Before identifying the potential causes of cerebral palsy, it is important to know what CP is. CP is a disabling condition that arises due to brain damage or abnormality in the early stages of development. This damage can occur before a child is born, during labor and delivery, or in the early stages of life.
Cerebral palsy can affect virtually all aspects of a child’s life, from mobility to speech to learning and much more. Although a number of therapies exist for people with CP, there is no cure.
With the right support and proper medical care, people with cerebral palsy can live rich, fulfilling lives. However, the cost of therapies and support services over the patient’s lifetime can be astronomical. In an article published in 2004, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the average lifetime cost of living with cerebral palsy is $921,000 – a figure that has only grown over the years amid the sharp increase in medical expenses.
Medical negligence is a significant factor in cerebral palsy cases. Families of children with cerebral palsy may be able to recover compensation for the costs associated with a birth injury caused by medical malpractice. It is important to contact a birth injury lawyer promptly if your child has been diagnosed with CP.
Potential Causes of Cerebral Palsy
The majority of cerebral palsy cases are congenital. In other words, they are caused by issues when the baby is in utero, during the birthing process, or within the first month of the baby’s life.
Possible causes of brain damage that can lead to cerebral palsy before, during, and shortly after birth include:
- Maternal-acquired infections: Expectant mothers can pass infections to unborn babies. Inflammation can occur if the infection goes undiagnosed and untreated, potentially resulting in damage to the baby’s brain. A wide range of bacteria and viruses are associated with these infections.
- Oxygen deprivation: Multiple factors can cause a baby to be deprived of oxygen during delivery. Babies born prematurely may have breathing issues that make it difficult to get enough oxygen. The risk of fetal oxygen deprivation is also higher when giving birth to multiples. In addition, complications such as placental abruption (where the placenta detaches from the uterus) and nuchal cord (where the baby’s neck becomes entangled in the umbilical cord) can reduce the flow of oxygen to the fetus, potentially resulting in brain damage.
- Low birthweight: Preterm birth may result in lower birthweight, but it is not the only cause. Babies weighing less than 5 pounds and 8 ounces are at a higher risk of CP and other health issues.
- Kernicterus: Many babies are born with some degree of jaundice (yellow coloring of the skin caused by a buildup of bilirubin). Bilirubin levels need to be monitored after birth to ensure the child does not suffer brain damage (a condition known as kernicterus).
- Fetal stroke: Oxygen deprivation and/or bleeding when a baby is in the womb can result in hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). Also known as a perinatal stroke, HIE can result in bleeding that may damage the developing brain.
- Head injuries: Traumatic injuries to a baby’s head during labor can damage the brain. Misuse of forceps and vacuum extraction devices are two examples of common circumstances where the head and underlying brain tissue may suffer severe injury as a result of medical negligence.
- Genetic mutations: In a small number of cases, cerebral palsy may be caused by abnormal brain development that occurs due to mutations in the baby’s genes.
Unlike congenital cerebral palsy, acquired CP is caused by injury, illness, oxygen deprivation, and other serious events “more than 28 days after birth.” According to the CDC, acquired cerebral palsy makes up only a small percentage of CP cases.
When Does Medical Negligence Cause Cerebral Palsy?
It is often difficult to pinpoint the exact moment that a birth injury occurs. The requisite brain damage that causes CP generally happens before a child is born, making precise causation difficult to determine.
However, serious errors on the part of medical professionals can increase the risk of your baby developing cerebral palsy, including:
- Failure to diagnose and treat maternal infection
- Failure to treat chronic conditions of the mother, such as diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, autoimmune disorders, etc.
- Failure to treat blood type incompatibility between mother and baby
- Failure to detect maternal and/or fetal distress
- Negligent use of instruments to assist in delivery (forceps, vacuum extractor, etc.)
- Failure to perform a cesarean section in cases of difficult or prolonged labor
- Errors in monitoring the baby after birth
- Negligent treatment of jaundice, infections, stroke, and other conditions after the baby is born
Many of these errors are not obvious to patients and their families when they occur, but they can lead to a variety of lifelong challenges.
Contact a Birth Injury Lawyer in Columbus Today
Cerebral palsy and other complications related to birth trauma can take an enormous physical, emotional, and financial toll. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to recover the full value of the losses you and your family face – both now and in the future.
The birth injury lawyers at Colombo Law can fully investigate to determine what medical errors may have harmed your child. We build a strong claim on your behalf against all liable parties and pursue the compensation you and your loved ones deserve.
Please call (614) 362-7000 today for a free consultation with a Columbus birth injury lawyer. Colombo Law serves clients throughout Ohio.