Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy Attorney 

Helping Children Diagnosed with CP Nationwide

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Content on this page:

  1. Definition
  2. Causes
  3. Symptoms
  4. When Medical Malpractice Leads to CP
  5. Known Risk Factors
  6. Is CP Preventable?
  7. Diagnosis, Tests and Missed Milestones
  8. Types of Cerebral Palsy
  9. How is CP Classified
  10. Compensation

First, let's define cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects body movement and posture. It is caused by brain damage that occurs either before, during or immediately after birth. CP can be caused by genetic, environmental factors as well as prematurity.

However, because hypoxia (lack of oxygen) to the baby’s brain during labor and delivery is a known cause of cerebral palsy it is important for the doctors and nurses to identify the signs on the fetal monitor and timely intervene to help the baby.

The type and timing of the injury to the brain determines the severity of cerebral palsy. Some children are mildly affected while others may be completely unable to move and require assistance to eat and even breathe.

Cerebral palsy can cause the following movement disorders:

  • Spasticity (stiff muscles), which is referred to as spastic cerebral palsy
  • Dyskinesia (uncontrollable movements), referred to as dyskinetic cerebral palsy
  • Ataxia (poor balance and coordination), referred to as ataxic cerebral palsy
  • A combination of movement disorders, referred to as mixed cerebral palsy

Signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy may take months or even years to become apparent. If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, it is important to answer the question: could this have been prevented?

Cerebral palsy attorney Michael H. Bereston can talk to you about the circumstances surrounding your pregnancy, labor and your child’s birth and review medical records to determine whether malpractice may have been involved. Working with top-notch medical experts, he and our team can work to expose wrongdoing and help you pursue much-needed financial compensation.

To learn more, call (410) 220-6581. Your consultation is free! We serve clients across Maryland and throughout the country from our office in Annapolis.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

In the broadest terms, cerebral palsy is caused by asphyxia-related brain damage. When a developing baby or newborn child does not receive adequate oxygen and blood to the brain, he or she can suffer serious and permanent brain damage as brain cells begin to die. In some cases, this leads to cerebral palsy.

There are many ways in which an unborn or just-born baby could suffer oxygen deprivation. For example, if labor is not progressing quickly enough and the delivery room doctor fails to order an emergency cesarean section (C-section), causing the baby to experience hypoxemia (low oxygen levels in the blood) which, in turn, can lead to hypoxia (low oxygen levels in tissues, including brain tissue).

Additionally, problems with the umbilical cord, such as umbilical prolapse or an umbilical cord that is wrapped around the baby in the womb, could result in asphyxia.

These are just some examples of how oxygen deprivation before, during, or immediately after birth can occur; any time a baby suffers dangerous oxygen deprivation, they are at risk of developing a number of birth defects and related conditions, including cerebral palsy.

When a parent is first informed that their baby has been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, it’s common for their first thought to be “how did this happen?” The truth is, Cerebral Palsy can be caused by many different factors.

Cerebral Palsy may also be caused by the negligence of healthcare providers before, during or after birth.

Some examples of this include:

  • Asphyxia or hypoxia during pregnancy, labor, and delivery - the baby had an injurious lack of oxygen to the brain during pregnancy or labor and delivery that went undiagnosed or untreated
  • Birth trauma - excessive force or injury to the brain during delivery
  • C-section delay
  • Forceps and/or vacuum extractor misuse
  • Umbilical cord issues
  • Inadequate or incorrect interpretation of fetal monitoring tracings showing fetal compromise
  • Missed diagnosis of high-risk problems in pregnancy
  • Premature birth

These issues do not mean that your child will have Cerebral Palsy. If the healthcare providers are diligent and provide care to you and your baby in the safest manner possible, it will help to diminish the risk of Cerebral Palsy from these conditions.

Is Cerebral Palsy Genetic?

Cerebral Palsy is not a hereditary condition. It is only caused when there is a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain. However, new research does suggest that our genetics may predispose an individual to Cerebral Palsy. This by no means excuses a medical professional whose negligence led to a child's brain injury, but it may explain why Cerebral Palsy seems to “run in the family”.

What Are the Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?

The symptoms of CP may be different for each affected individual and can vary in severity, ranging from mild to severe. For example, one individual with CP may have trouble sitting and walking, while another individual suffering from CP may have trouble with their grip strength, rendering them unable to pick up objects.

The part of the brain affected determines the symptoms suffered.

Some of the more common symptoms of Cerebral Palsy include:

  • Missed milestones including, rolling over, moving toys from one hand to the other, crawling, walking, kicking a ball
  • Abnormal muscle tone - increased muscle tone or decreased muscle tone
  • Spastic movements
  • Consistent poor coordination
  • In-toeing/Out-toeing - toes pointing inward/outward
  • Difficulty walking
  • Neurological issues - seizures, blindness, intellectual disability

Can Cerebral Palsy Be Cured?

Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition and there is no known cure for it. However, various treatments and therapies are available to help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals with cerebral palsy. Research and medical advancements continue, so we can only hope one day a cure may be found.

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When Medical Malpractice Leads to Cerebral Palsy

While it is possible for a child to develop cerebral palsy as a result of completely unforeseeable complications or unpreventable conditions, many cerebral palsy diagnoses are the result of medical malpractice. When a child suffers a birth injury due to the negligent or careless actions of an obstetrician, delivery room nurse doctor, midwife, or any other medical professional, and that birth injury leads to permanent brain damage and cerebral palsy, the child’s parent/guardian may take legal action. While nothing can undo what has happened to your child, a birth injury claim can allow you to recover financial compensation, allowing you to get the critical treatment for your child that he or she needs.

When is Medical Malpractice Responsible for a Child’s Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis? 

Some common examples include instances in which medical professionals:

  • Fail to recognize/diagnose a high-risk pregnancy
  • Fail to monitor or respond to signs of fetal distress
  • Do not detect or treat maternal infections
  • Allow labor to continue for a prolonged amount of time
  • Do not order a timely C-section
  • Misuse assistive birth devices, such as forceps or vacuum extractors
  • Extend labor/delivery unnecessarily

In short, any time a medical professional does not uphold the standard duty of care—both to the mother and the baby—that doctor may be liable for any injuries either the mother or child suffers.

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