Cerebral palsy, also called Littles disease or static encephalopathy, is a group of chronic disorders impairing control of movement that appear in the first few years of life. Cerebral palsy was first noticed in children in the first years of their lives back in 1860. An English surgeon named William Little wrote about an unknown disorder that caused stiff, spastic muscles in their legs and their arms. The children with the observed difficulties did not get any better or any worse as they aged. That documented condition was called Littles for many years but is now known as spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy.
- Section 1 Causes of Cerebral Palsy
- Section 2 Four Types of Cerebral Palsy
- Section 3 Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis and Risks
- Section 4 Cerebral Palsy Prevention
- Section 5 Cerebral Palsy Treatment
- Section 6 Available Legal Assistance for Families
- Section 7 Cerebral Palsy FAQs
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy was once thought to be the result of a lack of oxygen during birth. Other suggestions continued to surface because the children with cerebral palsy had other problems like mental retardation, visual disturbances, and seizures. Until the 1980’s it was still believed that birth complications caused most cases of cerebral palsy until scientists analyzed data from a government study and found that less than 10% of the cerebral palsy births were due to birth complications.
Cerebral palsy affects the nerves that regulate and control the body’s muscles. The literal meaning of the word “cerebral” is the brain’s two halves and “palsy” describes any disorder that impairs control of body movement. When there is faulty development or damage to motor areas, as in cerebral palsy, it disrupts the brain’s ability to control movement and posture sufficiently.
Four Types of Cerebral Palsy
People with cerebral palsy must endure extremely difficult medical, social, and educational development. The following are the 4 types of cerebral palsy and more detailed information:
- Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common form, affecting 70-80% of patients. This type of cerebral palsy keeps the muscles in a constant state of increased involuntary reflex.
- Athetoid cerebral palsy is characterized by a slow and uncontrolled movement and affects 10-20% of the cerebral palsy patients.
- Ataxic cerebral palsy is the rare form of cerebral palsy affecting just 5-10% of the patients. In most cases of cerebral palsy there are more than one of the types of symptoms present.
- Mixed cerebral palsy is another form of cerebral palsy, which is a combination of spasticity and athetoid movements.
Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis and Risks
Characteristics have been observed that seem to increase the possibility of a child being diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Although there are always risk factors for certain conditions, such as cerebral palsy, this does not mean that certain factors will always result in cerebral palsy. Some of the risk factors that have been uncovered should be easily recognizable to doctors as indicators. Babies that are born with cerebral palsy are sometimes born with breech presentation.
Breech presentation is when a baby is presented feet first as opposed to the typical head first birth. A complicated labor and delivery may be a sign that the infant could have cerebral palsy. Cases of cerebral palsy are recognized by vascular or respiratory problems that are sometimes the first sign that a baby has suffered some brain damage or has not fully developed their brain. There is a numbered rating scale that reflects a newborn’s condition by checking the baby’s heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflexes, and skin color in the first minutes after birth, called the Apgar score. A low Apgar score indicated potential problems and babies with cerebral palsy often score a low Apgar.
Premature births and low birth weight has been shown to correlate with cerebral palsy. The risk for cerebral palsy increases as the weight falls. Multiple births are also considered a risk for cerebral palsy. Some babies with cerebral palsy have visible nervous system malformation like an abnormally small head suggesting that problems occurred in the development of the nervous system when the baby was in the womb.
There are also indicators of cerebral palsy that show up in the mother carrying the child. Maternal bleeding or severe proteinuria late in pregnancy or vaginal bleeding during the sixth to ninth months of pregnancy is linked to higher risk of cerebral palsy babies. Mothers who have hyperthyroidism, mental retardation, or seizures are also more likely to have a child with cerebral palsy. Seizures in the newborn child can also indicate a higher risk of being diagnosed with cerebral palsy later in childhood.
Cerebral Palsy Prevention
Preventing cerebral palsy is not always possible but there are certain causes that can be treated or prevent cerebral palsy. Healthy pregnancy is always advisable, though a healthy pregnancy will not always prevent cerebral palsy from occurring. A head injury that can lead to cerebral palsy can be prevented by the regular use of safety devices.
Child safety seats in the car and bicycle helmets along with safety measures in the home can prevent accidental injuries and protect a child’s head from becoming injured and leading to cerebral palsy. Newborn babies with jaundice can be treated with phototherapy that exposes the affected baby to special lights that break down bile pigments and prevent them from building up and threatening the brain. A blood test that is routinely performed on expectant mothers can find Rh incompatibility that can be treated with a special serum to prevent unwanted production of antibodies. Doctors can minimize problems by watching the developing baby and performing a transfusion when necessary. A simple vaccination that can be given to women before becoming pregnant can keep Rubella or German measles from occurring and leading to cerebral palsy.
Prior to three years of age parents can tell if there may be something different about their baby. Children who are not developing motor skills at a normal pace may possibly have cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy infants are frequently slower to reach developmental milestones. Abnormal muscle tone may appear in the child, including decreased muscle tone that makes the baby appear relaxed and floppy and increased muscle tone that makes the baby seem stiff or rigid can indicate cerebral palsy. While these symptoms are good indicators of cerebral palsy they can also be developmental problems. A doctor can help distinguish this.
Cerebral Palsy Treatment
Cerebral palsy is a group of chronic disorders impairing control of movement. Cerebral palsy occurs when there is brain damage. The effect of cerebral palsy on an individual can face serious and difficult medical, social, and education challenges. While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, different treatment methods are constantly being researched and improved. There are no treatments that can undo the damage and symptoms of cerebral palsy. Treatment for cerebral palsy includes different therapeutic approaches to help better manage the potential physical and mental aspects of a child. Physical therapy, drug therapy, or surgery may be implemented as part of a cerebral palsy treatment depending on the individual’s needs.
Cerebral Palsy Recommended Treatment Options:
Physical therapy is an important treatment if started soon after a diagnosis is made in the first years of a child’s life. Specific exercises helps to keep the muscles from becoming weakened and from deteriorating from lack of use. Cerebral palsy patients can experience muscle contractures when muscles become fixed in a rigid and abnormal position. Physical therapy is used to prevent contracture complications by stretching spastic muscles due to the fact that most children are able to grow and stretch the muscles and tendons from their everyday activities. Physical therapy is also used in certain situations to improve motor development, in addition to behavior therapy in some situations that uses psychological theory and techniques to complement physical, speech, or occupational therapy.
Exercises help to avoid contractures which is one of the most serious, as well as common complications with cerebral palsy. Contractures can disrupt previous achievements and disrupt balance. When muscles and tendons are prevented from stretching and do not grow fast enough to keep up with lengthening bones, it is called spasticity.
Drug therapy is used when the cerebral palsy patient has seizures and the medications can prevent them from occurring. Drugs are used to control spasticity by interfering with the process of muscle contractions, though drugs used for the long-term control of spasticity has not been clearly proven yet. The drugs have only been shown to be effective in the short-term range. Other cerebral palsy patients may have alcohol injected into a muscle to help reduce spasticity for short periods of time, and the physician can work on lengthening the muscle at this time. Patients with athetoid cerebral palsy sometimes are prescribed drugs to reduce the abnormal movements that they experience.
Surgery Some cases of cerebral palsy cause contractures to be so severe that it causes problems in movement, therefore surgery is used to lengthen the shortened muscle. There is also a surgery that can reduce spasticity in the legs. This surgery that reduces the amount of stimulation that can reach the leg muscles by the nerves is still being researched on a continual basis to determine its overall effectiveness birth injury.
Available Legal Assistance for Families
A devastating birth injury like cerebral palsy occurs when the brain is damaged before or during birth. Such a birth injury may be the result of improper medical responses to fetal distress. If the birth injury results from the negligence of the medical staff, then the doctor/hospital should be held responsible. Birth injury costs can include emergency surgery, long term care and treatment, medication, etc. Children with birth injury conditions may never be capable of caring for themselves and the expense of treating a birth injury and achieving the best possible quality of life can be quite high. Additionally, a birth injury is traumatic and devastating for the entire family. Parents of a child with a birth injury may be entitled to compensation for the emotional and psychological distress they suffer.
When a birth injury occurs through the negligence or poor judgment of medical professionals; the family living with the birth injury may have many questions about their legal rights. As attorneys experienced in cerebral palsy cases we may be able to help explain how to decide if the birth injury could have been prevented with proper medical attention.
If you feel your child suffers from Cerebral Palsy and wish to bring legal action to compensate your child for their physical and emotional damages, please contact us today at (800) 400-8182 or contact us online to speak with an attorney about your situation.
Cerebral Palsy FAQ’s
Erb’s Palsy/brachial plexus injuries
Brain injury caused by improper use of vacuum extractors
Drugs to control seizures and muscle spasms
Special braces to compensate for muscle imbalance
Mechanical aids to help overcome impairments
Counseling for emotional and psychological needs
Physical, occupational, speech, and behavioral therapy
Bleeding, distress, or lack of oxygen experienced by mother or infant
Umbilical cord entrapment or compression
Delay in decision to do cesarean section
Use / misuse of vacuum extractor and forceps
Delay in recognizing or treating Infections
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