Cerebral Palsy Symptoms and Diagnosis

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Cerebral Palsy occurs in the last stages of pregnancy, during the birth of the child or during the first three years of the child’s life. It is a developmental abnormality of the brain resulting in weakness and loss of coordination in movement.  Cerebral Palsy results from damage to the fetus’s/child’s brain. Cerebral Palsy includes an expansive range of disorders that include:

  • Muscle tightness
  • Problems with fine motor skills
  • Spastic movements
  • Seizures
  • Mental retardation
  • Epilepsy
  • Posture problems
  • Problems with fine motor skills
  • Impaired sensations

Types of Cerebral Palsey

These disorders generally fall into four categories:

  • Spastic Paralysis is the most common type of Cerebral Palsy.  In Spastic Paralysis children are afflicted with severe stiffness in muscles and limited range of motion.
  • Atheothoid Cerebral Palsy is associated with involuntary writhing movements, poor muscle tone, slurred speech and poor posture
  • Ataxia is a type of Cerebral Palsy includes problems with balance and coordination, as well as impaired depth perception.
  • Mixed Cerebral Palsy occurs when symptoms include a combination of the above.

The causes of Cerebral Palsy are often challenging to identify.  However, many cases are linked to the time just before or during birth; these cases are called Congenital Cerebral Palsy.  Some cases of Cerebral Palsy  have been traced to mothers who suffer from urinary tract infections or seizures during pregnancy. Often hypoxia results when a fetus is in distress in the womb. The baby may suffer from a lack of oxygen to the brain (cerebral hypoxia).  This may happen when the fetus’s breathing is hampered by a problem with the umbilical cord or when labor is prolonged due to the baby being caught in the birth canal.   A delay in delivering the baby can cause brain damage, making it imperative that the mother and the baby be closely monitored by doctors and medical staff.  Babies may also suffer brain damage as the result of physical trauma to the mother during delivery and problems with equipment used during the delivery process.  Equipment such as forceps or vacuum extractors can cause physical harm if used incorrectly. Still other cases have been associated with the RH factor, which is an incompatibility between the mother’s blood and the blood of the baby.

A second type of Cerebral Palsy is Acquired Cerebral Palsy.  This is far less frequent and happens after birth.  Brain trauma can occur in the infancy stage due to infections like encephalitis, meningitis and Rubella.  Finally, instances of cerebral palsy have been linked to severe head trauma during early childhood.

Medical Errors as Cause of Cerebral Palsey

It is critical that medical professionals make a timely diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy.  While cerebral palsy can not be cured, life altering disability can be minimized if early diagnosis is made The probability of early diagnosis is greatly increased if babies from difficult pregnancies, premature births or traumatic births are seen by doctors more frequently for checkups.  Doctors can monitor and track any problems in the child’s movement, muscle development, reflexes and general development.

Treatment options are available for Cerebral Palsy patients.  Management of Cerebral Palsy is aimed at improving movement through physical therapy, combined with surgery, behavioral and speech therapy, mechanical aids (such as braces), and drugs to control seizures and spasms.  The expense of treatment and management of Cerebral Palsy can be tremendous.  Additionally, the impact of the disease on the child and the family can be overwhelming.  Some of these cases are preventable, so it is critical that all measures are taken to avoid this life altering disease.  Medical professionals can and should take measures to timely deliver a fetus during a traumatic birth, monitor the fetus and the mother during delivery, use delivery room equipment properly and provide follow up care to babies suffering difficult births to reduce the chance of a child suffering with cerebral palsy.  If Cerebral Palsy can be traced to negligence of such medical procedures, then a medical malpractice attorney can be of help to determine if there was in fact an absence of adequate medical care.

You may contact the author of this article, Brett H. Oppenheimer, at brett@bluegrassinjury.com.

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