Cerebral palsy is the most common developmental disability among children in the United States.
According to the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation, approximately 764,000 children and adults in the U.S. are living with one or more symptoms of cerebral palsy. Between 8,000 and 10,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.
What Are the Causes?
Seventy percent of the time, the causes of cerebral palsy are congenital and the condition develops (for a variety of reasons, such as disease, injury or positioning) during pregnancy.
Ten percent of the time, cerebral palsy is caused by disease or injury during early childhood (like shaken baby syndrome), while the brain is still forming.
Twenty percent of the time, cerebral palsy is caused by birth injury. In the context of birth injuries, cerebral palsy is caused by a lack of oxygen to an infant’s brain during labor or delivery. Sometimes, this birth injury is unavoidable and not the fault of the attending healthcare provider. Other times, it is.
Cerebral palsy is a medical term for a number of neurological disorders that hinder body movement and muscle coordination. Since babies are born fairly “floppy” to begin with, cerebral palsy is not diagnosed at birth. Concerns arise as the baby fails to meet certain development milestones.
These milestones include a baby’s ability to suck properly, support its head, roll over or sit up on schedule. Many children do not receive a firm diagnosis of cerebral palsy until age two or three.
Cerebral palsy symptoms can be mild or severe. They include lack of overall movement control, including spastic, rigid, slow or shaky arms and legs. The condition can also impair brain function, vision and hearing. Other common signs include difficulty with eating, speaking and swallowing (including excessive drooling).
Cerebral palsy can be caused by medical mistakes that result in a lack of oxygen to a baby’s brain. These might include:
- Failure to detect or properly treat infections in the mother during pregnancy
- Failure to appropriately monitor fetal heart rate before and during labor and birth
- Failure to detect a prolapsed umbilical cord
- Failure to plan and schedule a cesarean section when a baby is too large for a safe delivery
- Delay in performing (or failure to perform) a medically necessary cesarean section and
- Negligence and unreasonable mistakes in using instruments like a vacuum and forceps when delivering a baby.
A Lifetime of Care
Cerebral palsy is not a disease. There is no cure. However, people with cerebral palsy who get proper treatment can live a normal and productive lifespan. Often, they require medicine, surgeries, therapies and adaptive equipment. A lifetime of such care is costly in terms of both time and money. The average lifetime care cost is close to $1 million.
A medical review will let you know if your child’s cerebral palsy was caused by the negligent care of a healthcare provider, and if you have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Call a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
The issues surrounding cerebral palsy and medical malpractice are complicated. Plus, the facts in each case and the laws in each state are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the subject. It is not medical advice. For more detailed, specific information about your unique case, please contact a medical malpractice lawyer.