When young children suffer a neonatal brain injury, it may take years to diagnose. Often, symptoms of infant brain damage do not appear until much later.
A new medical technology, however, may allow us to discover infant brain damage faster and more accurately. Researchers at Washington University are developing a device utilizing the same technology in smart watches that detects neurological injuries at early stages. This allows for early intervention, which is extremely helpful to improving side effects of infant brain damage.
However, before these devices reach mainstream medical facilities, there are some other ways to tell whether your child endured brain damage from a birth injury. After identifying the damage, you and your child may be entitled to some compensation from medical malpractice lawsuit.
How Birth Injuries Can Cause Infant Brain Damage
Most birth injuries are related to a lack of oxygen flow to the brain, also known as Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE). When the brain does not receive enough oxygen, detrimental harm occurs.
The timeline of brain damage happens very fast, especially in newborns. In other words, even a small amount of oxygen deprivation can cause infant brain damage and other lasting effects.
Timeline of HIE:
- Oxygen deprivation from 30 to 180 seconds, lose of consciousness may occur. However, permanent damage is unlikely
- After 1 minute, brain cells begin to die and likelihood of injury slightly increases
- At 3 minutes, the neurons (brain cells that transmit signals to other parts of the body) experience more damage. The probability of a lasting brain injury increases
- After 5 minutes, infant death is a possibility
- If the child remains alive in between 5 and 10 minutes, a coma and permanent infant brain damage is almost inevitable
- Survival of HIE is most often impossible past 15 minutes. In fact, 15-20% of infants who suffer HIE eventually die
From this timeline, it is clear to see that medical professionals must act quickly when dealing with HIE in a newborn. Overall, without fast action infant brain damage is nearly unavoidable.
Types of Infant Brain Damage
Infant brain damage caused by HIE at birth can manifest in many different ways. This includes:
- Cerebral Palsy: A neurological disorder that affects body movement and coordination
- Facial and/or body deformities
- Epilepsy or seizure disorder
These are only a few examples of how a lack of oxygen during birth can permanently damage your child.
Signs of Infant Brain Damage During Labor and Delivery
Although difficult to detect at birth, there are some signs of infant brain damage during delivery:
- The position of the umbilical cord is an indicator of the fetus’ ability to intake oxygen. There is a good chance the baby will suffocate during delivery if the cord is wrapped around the neck. Therefore, doctors should proceed cautiously.
- The fetal heartbeat is also a good indicator of distress.
- Detection of high-risk pregnancies, indicated by aspects such as age and health status of the mother, may also predict birth injuries. Therefore, doctors should treat these cases with extreme caution to prevent infant brain damage during delivery.
- A prolonged labor may also indicate oxygen deprivation and resulting brain injury.
- If the newborn scores low on the A.P.G.A.R test. This is an examination given within the first 5 minutes of birth that evaluates appearance, pulse, grimace, activity, and respiration on a scale from 0 to 2. If the child scores below a 7, it is also an indication that the brain is not receiving enough oxygen.
Many of these signs should prompt direct actions from medical care professionals that can help avoid permanent brain damage.
Signs of Infant Brain Damage in Early Childhood
Detecting brain damage in early childhood is relatively easier than in infancy. Developmental problems, such as these, are tell tale:
- Abnormal temperamental issues
- Sleeping problems
- Excessive crying
- Difficulties feeding
- Missed developmental milestones (crawling, talking, etc.)
Medical examinations like a MRI or CT head scan detect and diagnose most infant brain damage. Because these tests provide images of the brain, issues can be seen more clearly.
However, these tests are only recommended when the child scores below a 15 on the Glasgow Coma Scale. This is a test that assess brain impairment through different stimuli. Some of the reactions tested include, eye opening and motor responses.
Infant brain damage may appear at various times after birth. Some of the physical symptoms include:
- Seeing and hearing problems
- Paralysis or tremors
- Poor balance
- Difficulty walking, running etc.
- Sensitivity to certain stimuli (light, noise, etc.)
Other cognitive symptoms include:
- Attention and concentration problems (ADD or ADHD)
- Difficulty remembering or processing information
- Language and communication issues
- Poor impulse control
- Struggle with critical thinking
Although some infant brain damage is irreversible, there are some treatments that may lessen the effects.
Initially, if a birth injury is detected shortly after birth, neonatal hypothermia therapy is recommended. The relatively new treatment lowers a baby’s total body temperature to slow down brain damage or disease. During this procedure, a cold blanket placed around the infants cools the temperature. Then, monitoring occurs for a few days. Doctors may also use an IV to administer medication.
Because most infant brain damage is not realized until childhood, some treatment methods may not be as effective. However, these actions may still reduce the negative effects:
- Brain surgery
- Physical and/or occupational therapy
- Placement of a mechanical ventilation system on the brain
- Oral medication to improve attention and concentration
Attorneys Handling Infant Brain Damage Claims
Infant brain damage can result in lifelong effects and an overall decrease in quality of life for both the parents and child. Infant brain damage is oftentimes quite preventable with quality medical care and treatment. Sadly, many infant patients do not receive adequate medical care resulting in serious health consequences.
If you have any questions concerning a birth injury claim, you should speak to a lawyer immediately. Contact our experienced medical malpractice injury attorneys by email or by calling (718) 364-4000 for important information and advice. You can also fill out one of our case intake forms, and we will have one of our attorneys get right back to you.