Cerebral palsy (CP) is one of the many birth injuries that can occur due to medical malpractice or negligence. Actually a group of disorders rather than one single condition, cerebral palsy affects around 764,000 people in the United States. Each year in the US, it is estimated that approximately 10,000 babies are born with CP, with an estimated 1 in every 323 children suffering from CP in the United States.
In addition to the motor skills problems caused by cerebral palsy, CP has a number of associated disorders that often develop. These include behavioral problems, cognitive problems, developmental issues, vision and hearing loss, dermatological issues, digestive issues, dysphagia, and seizures.
Understanding Cerebral Palsy
The most commonly occurring childhood motor disability, cerebral palsy mostly affects balance, posture, and motor ability. Essentially, a child’s developing brain is abnormal or suffers from damage that then causes the individual difficulty in controlling his or her own muscles and muscle movements. In some cases, this damage is caused by avoidable medical error and birth trauma.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
Everyone with CP is different, and cases may range from mild to severe. CP can be congenital or acquired. Congenital cerebral palsy is the most common, and is caused by a brain injury before or during birth. Acquired cerebral palsy results from infection or injury that occurs 28 days or more after birth.
There are four main forms that cerebral palsy can take, and each is associated with their own range of symptoms and severity.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy
Up to 80% of individuals with CP have spastic CP, making it the most common form. Spastic cerebral palsy results in stiff muscles and muscle movements caused by increased muscle tone. Different regions of the body may be affected, and may affect some limbs and not others. The most severe form, spastic quadraplegia, is when the cerebral palsy affects all four limbs as well as their trunk and face. This results in the individual’s inability to walk and is often associated with additional associated disorders.
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy
Dyskinetic CP most often affects the hands, arms, feet, and legs, but may also affect the tongue and face. Those with dyskinetic CP suffer from movements that are either prolonged or rapid, making it hard to sit, stand, walk, and, when the face and mouth are affected, talk and eat.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Ataxic CP affects balance, and makes individuals with this form struggle to remain steady while walking or doing tasks that require control. This makes hand-eye coordination difficult, and can affect daily activities such as writing and eating.
Mixed Cerebral Palsy
Mixed CP is the result of individuals experiencing two or more of the other types of cerebral palsy. Spastic, being the most common, is often mixed with dyskinetic CP, for example.
What Can Cause Cerebral Palsy?
There are a variety of negligent mistakes that occur during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and early childhood that can lead to an injury resulting in cerebral palsy.
Unnecessary Caesarean Sections
When a doctor performs a Caesarean section (C-section) that is medically unnecessary, there is an additional risk for infection and mistakes. From a mother’s and fetus’s reaction to anesthesia to infection caused by the procedure, C-sections that are not medically required may cause more harm than good for both the mother and the child.
One of the more common complications for infants during C-sections is breathing problems, which can result in both fetal and infant distress. Cerebral palsy can result from these breathing issues, as a lack of oxygen to the brain will cause damage.
Failure to Perform a Timely Caesarean Section
On the opposite side of the spectrum, when a doctor fails to perform a medically necessary Caesarean section within a timely manner, the infant may suffer stress and trauma within the mother as well as during the procedure.
C-section babies tend to have more breathing issues than those delivered vaginally, so lack of oxygen can also affect infants when they are not delivered with speed; fetal oxygen deprivation is a common cause of emergency C-sections.
Failure to Detect and/or Treat Infections
Infections in the mother during pregnancy, as well as in the infant after birth, that go undetected and untreated can lead to serious complications such as cerebral palsy in the child. When a mother has an infection during her pregnancy, cytokines can build up within the baby’s brain and bloodstream and cause damage due to swelling.
Viruses that are known to be linked to the development of cerebral palsy in fetuses are: chickenpox, rubella, CMV, and bacterial infections such as those of the placenta. Additionally, infection in fetal membranes and the mother’s pelvic organs can result in cerebral palsy.
Improper Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring
Fetal heart monitors will detect fetal oxygen deprivation, and if the professionals tracking the fetal heart rate are negligent, birth injuries like cerebral palsy may result. Additionally, the hospital facility should maintain its fetal monitoring equipment, and ill-equipped delivery rooms can result in CP and other disabilities.
Failure to Identify a Prolapsed or Compressed Umbilical Cord
A prolapsed umbilical cord occurs when the cord drops below the fetus into the vaginal canal after the mother’s water breaks. This can result in the baby becoming trapped against the cord, or can put the cord under stress, affecting the cord’s blood flow to the baby.
Similarly, a compressed umbilical cord results in decreased blood flow and nutrients to the baby, and may occur during late pregnancy or during labor.
Both of these may affect fetal heart rate, and if they are not detected can result in tragic complications, conditions such as cerebral palsy, or even stillbirth.
Use of Improper or Improperly Maintained Delivery Tools
Births often require tools to help the doctor assist in extracting the baby during delivery, such as forceps or vacuum extractors. If these tools are not properly utilized or are improperly cleaned and maintained, infection is likely in both the mother and baby. Bacterial infections such as this can lead to the development of cerebral palsy.
Undetected and Untreated Jaundice
When jaundice becomes severe, it can lead to brain damage associated with cerebral palsy.
Kernicterus, the condition caused by untreated jaundice, can also occur due to differences in the infant and mother’s blood types, which should be determined by hospital staff soon after the child’s birth. Mothers and infants with differing ABO or who have Rh incompatibility should be observed closely for jaundice, and all Rh negative mothers should receive Rhogam during pregnancy and postpartum.
Seeking Compensation for Malpractice-Caused Cerebral Palsy
There are a number of medical professionals whose negligence could lead to a birth injury such as cerebral palsy in your child, including:
- Certified Nurse Midwives
- Labor and Delivery Nurses
- Postpartum Nurses
- ICU Doctors
- Ultrasound technicians
All of these medical professionals and the hospital that employs them owe you and your child their focus, expertise, continuity of care, and best medical judgment. When any of these individuals fail to provide the care you deserve through negligence or malice, and it leads to a life-altering birth injury or wrongful death, they should be held liable.
We are the Michigan Cerebral Palsy Experts
Winning a Michigan cerebral palsy case is hard. The process is complex and Michigan law is not always favorable to injured plaintiffs. If you or your child have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to the medical negligence of a healthcare professional, call the Michigan cerebral palsy injury lawyers today at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733).
The Law office of Lee Steinberg has many years of experience and have been successfully handling Michigan medical malpractice cases for many years, including those centered on cerebral palsy. Our law firm has a large team of experienced Michigan cerebral palsy attorneys dedicated to helping you obtain the benefits you deserve.
Plus, we understand it can be difficult to travel to a lawyer. That’s why we make it easier for you. We have offices throughout the state of Michigan. We’re always nearby to serve you.
Please call Lee Free and Michigan cerebral palsy lawyers at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) or fill out the free case evaluation form so we can answer any questions you have about Michigan medical malpractice law.
We are the Michigan cerebral palsy experts. You pay nothing until we win your case. Let our personal injury lawyers help you today with a free consultation.
Cerebral Palsy Resources
American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children / Cerebral Palsy
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Cerebral Palsy
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Cerebral Palsy
CP Now Foundation