Cerebral Palsy Information
Cerebral palsy is a set of neurological impairments that affect the nervous system, leading to physical and/or mental disability. Caused by damage to certain areas of the developing brain, the disorder can occur during labor or after birth up to age three. When the fetus receives an insufficient amount of oxygen during delivery, brain damage can result. The extent of injury varies from case to case, with some children unable to walk, talk or control their movements, while other babies may only display slight awkwardness with no special assistance needed. There are multiple causes of cerebral palsy, but in our experience, about 10 percent of cerebral palsy cases can be attributed to medical malpractice or negligence.
Eisbrouch Marsh have a long track record of pursuing and successfully winning birth injury cases. Our experienced attorneys are sensitive to your situation and passionate about pursuing justice on behalf of families who have suffered a terrible tragedy due to the mistakes of others. We offer a full suite of resources to our clients — including support staff and a full-time registered nurse who can answer any questions or needs you may have for the duration of your cerebral palsy lawsuit.
What is cerebral palsy?
Each year, two to three out of every 1,000 babies are born with cerebral palsy. The most common type is spastic cerebral palsy, which is characterized by underdevelopment of limbs, muscle stiffness, speech problems and seizures. Sometimes intelligence is unaffected, but cognitive impairment affects those with spastic quadriplegia that is accompanied by walking and talking difficulties.
With athetoid dyskinetic cerebral palsy, the child suffers from whole body muscle problems like uncontrolled motions, drooling, difficulty controlling the tongue and problems with speech. In rare cases, children may not be able to swallow, control their bladders, see well, or breathe normally.
Causes of cerebral palsy
There can be multiple factors that contribute to a cerebral palsy diagnosis. Consider these CDC statistics:
- Premature birth – Data from the CDC found that there were 6.2 preemies (3 to 5.5 pounds) with cerebral palsy per 1,000 births. Worse yet, they found 59.5 preemies with cerebral palsy per 1,000 births among children weighing less than 1,500 grams.
- Multiples – A study in Scotland discovered that twins and other multiple birth children were five times more likely to have cerebral palsy than children born as singletons. These children are more likely to be born prematurely, which could account for some of the increase.
- In vitro fertilization – A study in Denmark found that children born from assisted conception techniques were 1.6 times more likely to have cerebral palsy. These children were more likely to be born prematurely or as part of a multiple birth.
- Maternal infection – Infection of the placental membranes (chorioamnionitis), blood infection, STDs, toxoplasmosis, or fever during labor increases the risk of children born with cerebral palsy. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that this was the cause of cerebral palsy in 14% of cases. The CDC puts this number even higher, stating that it accounts for 12% of spastic cerebral palsy and 28% of cerebral palsies among premature babies.
- Disruption of oxygen supply – The CDC reports that 10% of cases are due to birth hypoxia. Brain damage may be attributed to medical negligence in some situations. The doctor may fail to perform a timely C-section, use vacuums or forceps to forcefully deliver the baby, or fail to detect a prolapsed umbilical cord. Medical professionals should be monitoring the baby’s heart rate and looking for signs of fetal distress throughout the birthing process.
- Disruption of blood flow – The American Heart Association reports that 1 in 5,000 births are affected by an ischemic stroke during pregnancy or shortly after birth, which can cause cerebral palsy.
- Injuries – Another 10 to 15% of all cases were caused after birth – by motor vehicle crashes, falls, or serious infections like meningitis.
Signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy
The signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy vary greatly depending on the type of disability, as well as the age at which the condition is diagnosed.
The first signs are delayed motor skills and milestones such as:
- Children over 2 months who cannot control their heads or have legs that cross when lifted.
- Children over 6 months who cannot control their heads or reach with one hand, while clenching the other hand into a fist.
- Children over 10 months who crawl with one leg dragging behind or cannot sit independently.
- Children over 12 months who cannot crawl or stand with support.
- Children over 24 months who cannot walk or push a toy with wheels.
Diagnosis and cerebral palsy treatments
Sometimes it takes two or three years to arrive at a definitive conclusion, since children develop at such different rates. In most cases, a neurologist makes the cerebral palsy diagnosis. MRIs, EEGs, intelligence tests and medical exams can help diagnose the condition and rule out other possible injuries that may delay development.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for cerebral palsy. However, treatment can greatly improve a child’s quality of life. Early interventions may include showing the child new ways of accomplishing day-to-day tasks through occupational therapy. Speech therapy is another intervention that has proven beneficial. Drugs can be used to relax muscle spasms, control seizures and alleviate pain. Surgery, braces, wheelchairs, orthotic devices, walkers and communication aides can all improve a child’s mobility and enhance capabilities.
Cerebral palsy lawsuit verdicts
Not every cerebral palsy diagnosis is related to a birth injury, but in cases where medical malpractice is to blame, plaintiffs have been awarded generous sums of money for their child’s pain and suffering.
- Lee Memorial Health System in Florida was ordered to pay $15 million for administering medications during birth, which caused brain damage to the baby boy.
- In Connecticut, delayed delivery, failure to have adequate medical staff on hand and negligence in determining the infant’s positioning led to cerebral palsy brain damage and a record-breaking $58 million verdict for the parents to cover medical expenses and emotional suffering.
- A Memphis jury found that delays in performing a C-section by a UT Medical Group doctor resulted in the baby’s severe brain damage and cerebral palsy. The final verdict was a $33.5 million award to cover the cost of future health care needs.
- Evanston Hospital in Philadelphia paid out $15 million to the family of an 8-year-old who has suffered seizures, impaired vision and severe developmental delays when hospital workers failed to act on the presence of maternal fever and increased fetal heart rate during induction.
Birth injury attorneys at Eisbrouch Marsh
With over 40 years experience in birth injury malpractice claims, Eisbrouch Marsh have the expertise to argue your case before a jury or negotiate a pretrial settlement, so that your family can rest assured that justice has been served. More importantly, a successful cerebral palsy lawsuit can secure the financial future of your child by recovering damages for past and future medical expenses, special schooling, lost income, as well as pain and emotional suffering. And since our firm works on a contingency basis, you won’t owe us a dime unless you win compensation. Call us — toll-free, 24 hours a day — to schedule a free evaluation of your case.
- CDC – Data & Statistics for Cerebral Palsy,http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/cp/data.html
- American Heart Association - Cerebral Ischemia and the Developing Brain,http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/38/2/742.full
- Journal of the American Medical Association - Chorioamnionitis and Cerebral Palsy in Term and Near-Term Infants,http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=197709
- Huffington Post - Family Gets $58 Million In Record-Breaking Malpractice Suit,http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/26/malpractice-record_n_867439.html