Cerebral palsy is a heartbreaking condition that affects thousands of babies every year. If your child has cerebral palsy, then it is important to understand whether medical malpractice may have caused this birth injury, how it can be treated, why a lawsuit is important, and how the experienced Kentucky birth injury lawyers of Gray and White Law may help your family.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy During Labor & Delivery
Cerebral palsy can occur when a baby suffers from lack of oxygen, or asphyxia, during labor or delivery. This may happen, for example, if:
- The umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck.
- There is a problem with the placenta.
- The baby is stuck in the birth canal.
- The umbilical cord is twisted or compressed.
When a baby is in one of these situations, doctors must react quickly to make sure that the baby receives enough oxygen. If quick action is not taken, then significant oxygen deprivation may occur and the baby may be born with cerebral palsy or other complications. In order to respond quickly and to prevent cerebral palsy, it is important for a doctor to:
- Regularly monitor the mother and child during labor. This includes making sure that your labor is not prolonged and regularly monitoring your vital signs and the baby’s vital signs so that quick action can be taken if your child is in danger of oxygen deprivation.
- Act quickly when the mother or child is in distress. This may include performing an emergency C-section or using forceps or a vacuum to deliver the child quickly.
Risk Factors for Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy occurs in approximately two to three out of every 1,000 live births and many of these cases have unknown causes. However, the following risk factors are often present:
- very low birthweight (especially in babies weighing less than 1,000 grams, or 2.2 lbs)
- chemical/substance abuse during pregnancy
- bleeding in the brain
- complications of labor and delivery
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy stems from the brain’s inability to control parts of the body. Many signs and symptoms won’t be immediately noticeable at birth, but instead will become noticeable during the first few years of life. Some of the signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy include:
- weakened muscles (including facial)
- difficulty sucking and/or swallowing
- difficulty moving from one position to another
- body tremors or seizures
- vision, hearing, or speech problems
- learning disabilities and behavior problems
- slow to reach developmental milestones, such as learning to sit, crawl, or walk
- respiratory problems
- bowel and bladder problems
However, each child may experience symptoms differently. The child may have muscle weakness, poor motor control, or muscle tightness, also called spasticity, of the arms or legs. Muscle stiffness in the form of stiff legs or clenched fists may also be seen.
The symptoms of CP may resemble other conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
How Cerebral Palsy is Diagnosed
Cerebral palsy is diagnosed during a physical examination and usually doesn't happen until the child is at least 6 to12 months old. This is the time when the child should be achieving developmental milestones, such as walking, and hand and head control. Diagnostic tests may include the following:
- neurologic examination -to evaluate reflexes and brain/motor function
- x-rays - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
- feeding studies
- EEG - a procedure that records the brain's continuous, electrical activity by means of electrodes attached to the scalp.
- blood tests
- gait lab analysis -to evaluate the walking pattern of the child
- MRI - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
- CAT or CT scan - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.
- genetic studies - diagnostic tests that evaluate for conditions that have a tendency to run in families.
- metabolic tests - diagnostic tests that evaluate the absence or lack of a specific enzyme (for example, amino acids, vitamins, carbohydrates) that are necessary to maintain the normal
Cerebral palsy is classified according to the kind of motor function the child may have, including the following:
- spastic diplegia ("di" - means two) - spastic movements of the arms or legs. Diplegia is also called paraplegia.
- spastic quadriplegia ("quad" means four) - spastic movements in all four limbs (arms and legs).
- spastic hemiplegia ("hemi" means half) - spasticity affecting one half, or side, of the body (such as right arm and right leg).
- spastic double hemiplegia - spasticity in both sides of the body, but the amount of shaking is different when comparing the right side to the left side.
- athetoid - involuntary (unable to control), purposeless, and rigid movement.
Treatment for Cerebral Palsy
While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, there are treatment options that may help your child.
When it comes to cerebral palsy treatment, there is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Each patient is unique and cerebral palsy affects people differently. An entire team of medical professionals are often involved in the treatment plan. Your child’s team may include a:
- Pediatrician. Your child’s pediatrician will be able to provide the primary care for your child and will put together a treatment plan that is best suited for your child.
- Orthopedist. Braces, splints, and surgery may be important to your child’s development, and an orthopedist can make recommendations and take appropriate actions to help your child.
- Physical therapist. A physical therapist can help with a child’s movement and gross motor development.
- Speech pathologist. Your child may experience a speech delay, have difficulty making certain sounds, or have trouble swallowing due to difficulties with her facial muscles. A speech pathologist can work with your child on these skills.
- Psychologist. Your child’s emotional needs are at least as important as her physical needs. A psychologist, or social worker, may help your child with her self-confidence, self-esteem, peer relations, and other emotional issues.
- Teacher. Your child may require specialized instruction through First Steps for young children, or special education for children who are age three and older.
The first step in treating cerebral palsy is to identify your child’s needs and impairments. This information will then be used to create the treatment plan.
Common Treatment Options for Cerebral Palsy Patients in Kentucky
- Specialized services from the experts listed above. First Steps or your child’s school may provide some of these services. However, your child may also benefit from additional services.
- Medication to manage seizures, muscle spasms, and pain. These prescriptions may help improve your child’s quality of life.
- Braces to help with balance and other assistive devices to address other impairments. An orthopedist may recommend braces, a walker, or other devices to help improve your child’s mobility and independence.
- Surgery may provide your child with greater flexibility and more control over muscle groups.
Right now it might be hard to predict what treatment your child will need in the future. However, your child’s treatment team can help you reasonably anticipate her future needs so that you can be prepared to help her in all stages of her life.
How Filing a Kentucky Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit Helps Your Child
Your child’s treatment is going to be expensive, and your family should not have to bear the financial burden for the negligent act of a doctor or nurse that caused your child’s cerebral palsy. Accordingly, it is important to consider filing a cerebral palsy lawsuit so that you can have the resources that you need to care for your child now and for many years to come.
A settlement or verdict in a cerebral palsy malpractice case could include compensation for past, current, and future:
- Medical expenses. Doctors’ visits, surgeries, hospitalizations, braces, medications, and other expenses may be included in your child’s recovery.
- Rehabilitation costs. Physical therapy, speech therapy, psychological counseling, and other things may be included in your child’s recovery.
- Lost income. Your child’s future earning potential may be impacted and she may not be able to earn enough money to live independently because of her condition. This may be reflected in her recovery.
- Pain and suffering. Your child is experiencing physical pain and emotional suffering because of a doctor’s mistake. While a financial settlement is an imperfect way to compensate her for this pain and suffering, it is an important piece of her legal recovery.
- Other expenses. If you have lost income to care for your child, if you’ve made modifications to your home to accommodate her physical limitations, or if you’ve incurred other expenses then these should also be included in a legal recovery.
The attorneys of Gray and White Law have extensive experience with birth injury cases and have successfully sued hospitals in Louisville and throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
We know how these lawsuits work, we anticipate the defenses that will be raised, and the hospitals and their insurers know that we mean business.We would be proud to fight for your child—for your family—as we have successfully fought for others in the past. Read one client's story that came to Gray & White for help after things went wrong during the birth of their child: Kentucky Hospital Settles With Family After a Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis
Please contact us today at 888-450-4456 to schedule your free consultation and let’s get to work getting your child the fair and just recovery they deserve.