In honor of National Brain Injury Awareness Month, the Chicago brain injury lawyers of Passen & Powell are exploring traumatic and non-traumatic brain injury. Today, we take a closer look at cerebral palsy, a form of acquired brain in children which can lead to serious long-term disability.
The term “cerebral palsy” actually refers to any of several different chronic conditions which prevent affected individuals from controlling their muscles, and thereby the posture or movement of their bodies. Cerebral palsy may be the result of brain injury in the womb, during childbirth, or in early infancy.
The brain damage that results in cerebral palsy can come from a variety of sources. The most common, and best known, cause of the disorder is oxygen deprivation during childbirth. Such oxygen deprivation may itself be caused by leaving the infant too long in the birth canal, a physician’s failure to realize that the child is being choked by an umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, the over-use or incorrect use of vacuums and forceps, the failure to use a c-section in cases of fetal distress, or other delivery problems.
Problems immediately following birth are also often to blame. At times, doctors and hospitals fail to promptly diagnose and treat such conditions as jaundice (a common condition) or seizures (a rare condition), leading to brain damage.
There are also other possible causes of cerebral palsy, however. For example, serious infections, such as meningitis, in utero or shortly after birth can cause brain damage, and lead to cerebral palsy. The disorder can also stem from intraventricular bleeding (bleeding in the brain), a very serious condition that particularly affects premature babies.
A victim of cerebral palsy can have many symptoms, but cerebral palsy is generally classified according to three major categories (although victims may experience some combination of the various types of the disorder, depending on their particular brain damage). These are:
- Spastic Cerebral Palsy, or stiffness and difficulty moving;
- Athetoid Cerebral Palsy, or “twitches” – movements against the victim’s will, or outside her conscious control; and
- Ataxic Cerebral Palsy, including balance problems, and often difficulty with depth perception.
All types of cerebral palsy, however, share a common thread: the inability to control or move muscles to the same extent as an unaffected individual. Because each victim’s brain damage is unique, however, the extent and variety of the symptoms vary. But the most common symptoms include seizures, muscle spasms or tightness, twitches, sensory problems (disability in sight, hearing, taste, touch, or smell), and problems speaking or enunciating.
Understandably, cerebral palsy can have a significant impact on the lives and lifestyle of victims of the disorder. Those with cerebral palsy often have difficulty doing such ordinary and everyday tasks as playing and working, or even eating, walking, and talking. The Chicago cerebral palsy attorneys of Passen & Powell have experience dealing with various types and aspects of cerebral palsy, and the major life implications of the disorder.
In some very mild cases of cerebral palsy, a full recovery is possible. This is the exception, however – not the rule. Generally, although a victim will not deteriorate, and can manage the disorder, it can never be cured or completely overcome. Those with the disorder generally need years, if not a lifetime, of physical and occupational therapy. They may also need the assistance of a speech therapist or speech pathologist. The cost of these treatments – both in terms of dollars and in terms of the time commitment for the victim and her family – can be enormous, and often overwhelming.
In instances of a child’s cerebral palsy caused by negligence at birth, however, the recovery from a legal claim can help to cover the expenses of diagnosis and treatment. At times, it is not possible to determine the cause of cerebral palsy in a particular child. At other times, however, an experienced practitioner can determine the cause of brain injury in a particular case.
It is thus important for the parents of young children diagnosed with cerebral palsy to seek assistance in evaluating the possible causes of their child’s condition. If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a top Chicago brain injury attorney can help you to explore her case, and partner with expert medical professionals to determine if her disorder was caused by medical negligence. If so, you may have a legal claim.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago brain injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.