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Was Your Child’s Cerebral Palsy Caused By Medical Malpractice?


medical malpractice lawyersOur Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyers Explain Some  of the Basics You Need To Know About Medical Malpractice and Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a group of brain disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently impairs body and muscle coordination.  Although this condition can be caused by genetics, there are times when it is caused by medical malpractice during labor and delivery.  Our medical malpractice attorneys explain some important things you need to know if your child has cerebral palsy.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy is a form of brain damage that affects the brain and its function from birth.  It can cause problems with intellect, speech, sight, hearing, muscle tone, balance, fine and gross motor skills as well as other deficits.  It can also result in uncontrollable movements of the arms, legs and other parts of the body.  Seizures are also common for patients with cerebral palsy.  There are several types of cerebral palsy:

  • Ataxic Cerebral Palsy, also known as Ataxia, affects about 10% of children diagnosed with cerebral palsy and causes problems with motor function, balance, depth perception and coordination;
  • Athetoid Cerebral Palsy,  impairs the tone, and the ability to use, muscles. It is usually caused by damage to the basal ganglia or cerebellum.  About 10% of all children diagnosed with cerebral palsy are diagnosed with Athetoid cerebral palsy. Athetoid cerebral palsy makes regulating muscle tone difficult, which makes independent living challenging;
  • Mixed Cerebral Palsy, is a combination of more than one form of cerebral palsy. Approximately ten percent of patients suffering from cerebral palsy are affected by this a Mixed Type Cerebral Palsy;
  • Spastic Cerebral Palsy, is the most common type of cerebral palsy that affects the motor cortex of the brain.  An estimated 70% of cerebral palsy patients have this type of the condition.  Spastic Cerebral Palsy can make simple tasks like walking and picking up objects challenging. It is also common for children with Spastic Cerebral Palsy to develop a secondary conditions, such as ADHD or epilepsy.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?medical malpractice lawyers

While some forms of cerebral palsy are genetic or caused by pre-mature birth, others can be caused by medical malpractice.  One common cause of this condition is the death of brain tissue because of a lack of oxygen to the baby during labor or delivery.  If the lack of oxygen was caused by medical malpractice, you may have a basis to file a medical malpractice claim.

There are some common ways that a baby can be deprived of oxygen during labor and delivery because of medical malpractice, including:

  • A baby that was too large to safely pass through the birth canal gets “stuck” and suffocates;
  • Failure to timely perform a cesarean section procedure when a baby is in distress;
  • Failure to properly monitor a baby’s heart rate during labor and delivery;
  • Failing to detect a prolapsed umbilical cord;
  • Negligence and unreasonable mistakes in the use of instruments like a vacuum and forceps in performing a delivery.

How Do You Prove that a Child’s Cerebral Palsy was caused by Medical Malpractice?

The first difficulty in many of these cases is knowing whether the child actually has a brain injury.  While some cases involving brain injury are obvious, others are not.  When the injury is not immediately obvious, there can be certain clinical signs that are consistent with a brain injury that require further investigation.   For example, a baby’s inability to meet developmental milestones like, sitting at 9 months or taking a few steps by 12 months, can be consistent with an injury to the brain.

Once the presence of a brain injury is confirmed, then an investigation can be undertaken to try and determine whether the brain injury was caused by medical malpractice. One important starting point in this type of an investigation is to obtain and review the hospital records for the child’s labor and delivery. The records will contain a variety of information about the specifics of the labor and delivery, including whether the medical staff encountered any difficulty during the labor or delivery.

Sometimes, evidence of a problem with the newborn can be disclosed within the first few minutes of the child’s birth using the Apgar test.   This test, developed by obstetrician Dr. Virgina Apgar in 1952, is administered to newborns at two intervals:  1 minute after birth, and again at 5 minutes after birth.  This test evaluates 5 criteria:

  1. Appearance (skin color)
  2. Pulse (heart rate)
  3. Grimace response (reflexes)
  4. Activity (muscle tone)
  5. Respiration (breathing rate and effort)

Each item is scored on a scale of 0 to 2, with 2 being the best score.  A baby who scores 7 or above, is considered to be in good health.  Although a lower score does not mean that there is necessarily a problem, it does mean that their might be.

Another indicator of a baby’s health during labor and delivery are the results of fetal heart monitoring.  A fetal heart monitor listens to your baby’s heartbeat with flat sensors that are secured to the belly.   A connected machine records the interaction between the mother’s contractions and the fetal heart rate.  Under certain circumstances, the interaction between a mother’s contraction and a baby’s heart rate can be consistent with fetal distress, an indicator that there may have been a lack of oxygen to the baby.

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If you have any questions about your birth injury medical malpractice case, you contact our experienced medical malpractice attorney by email or calling (800) 762-9300 for more information.  You can also fill out one of our case intake forms, and we will have one of our attorneys get right back to you.

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