Texas Cerebral Palsy Lawyer
Cerebral palsy is a condition characterized by an impairment of the body’s ability to control movement and posture. It results from faulty development of or damage to the “motor” areas of the brain, which are responsible for controlling movement. In some cases, other manifestations of brain injury accompany cerebral palsy, such as:
- Intellectual impairment
- Behavioral problems
- Hearing deficits
- Vision disorders
- Speech impediments
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
The brain damage that causes cerebral palsy remains permanent from the time of injury. There is no cure for cerebral palsy, and it is not contagious.
Among the many causes of cerebral palsy are:
- Bacterial meningitis
- Vial encephalitis
- Failure to treat respiratory deficiencies after birth
- Brain trauma
At the Talaska Law Firm, our attorneys represent families whose children who suffer from cerebral palsy caused by birth trauma.
Birth trauma refers to injuries to a newborn during labor and delivery, when doctors and nurses do not properly monitor the well-being of the fetus, do not handle problems correctly or make mistakes in the birth process. There are different types and causes of birth trauma. Cerebral palsy and brachial plexus injuries discussed here are two common types of birth trauma.
Pregnancy, Labor and Delivery Problems
In the course of pregnancy, labor and delivery, mothers and their babies can encounter a wide range of difficulties that doctors and nurses must recognize and treat.
Problems with an unborn baby can result from lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain, which most frequently occurs during labor and delivery when the fetus is undergoing stress from the mother’s contractions. Babies of mothers diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes or other diseases are especially at risk. It is essential for doctors to thoroughly evaluate, monitor and diagnose such problems during the pregnancy. If doctors fail to do so, babies may not receive adequate oxygen while developing in the womb.
Low Oxygen Problems
During the birth process, doctors and nurses have the responsibility to make sure the baby does not suffer from lack of oxygen.
Hypoxemia (which means decreased oxygen in the blood) and ischemia (which means decreased flow of blood) can combine to asphyxiate or suffocate the baby in the womb. Asphyxiation can lead to brain damage, resulting in cerebral palsy and other conditions. The injurious process is similar to a child who has nearly drowned in water and suffers brain damage.
Assessing & Reacting to Fetal Distress
Electronic fetal monitors are an important tool to provide doctors and nurses with information about how a baby is tolerating labor. The monitor information is printed on a continuous strip of paper next to the laboring mom’s bed and tells the labor and delivery team about the unborn baby’s heart rate as well as how the heart is responding to the mother’s contractions. When interpreted properly, the labor and delivery team can determine when a baby is getting into trouble from lack of oxygen, a situation that doctors call fetal distress.
The labor and delivery team must recognize changes on the fetal monitor tracing, which show the baby is suffering from lack of oxygen and blood flow. There are various situations during pregnancy and labor, which can suddenly affect a baby’s oxygen level. Doctors and nurses must promptly recognize and respond to signs and symptoms of obstetrical emergencies, which can cause brain injuries in babies. Such emergencies include situations when the:
- When the placenta tears and separates from the uterine wall (placental abruption)
- When the umbilical cord gets pinched if it slips out of the birth canal (cord prolapse)
- When the uterus splits open (uterine rupture), and sudden, prolonged decrease in the baby’s heart rate (fetal bradycardia) occurs
In each of these emergencies, there is a dramatic decrease in oxygen and profusion of the blood circulating to the baby’s brain. When fetal distress is diagnosed, the delivery of the baby must be promptly carried out by Caesarean section before irreversible brain damage occurs. The Cesarean section removes the baby from a womb, where the baby is essentially suffocating. Minutes and seconds are critical in obstetrical emergencies. Delay is inexcusable when doctors and nurses discover any of the above complications.
Effects of Oxygen Deprivation
If the baby has suffered from lack of oxygen in the womb, the baby will be in a very stressed and depressed condition after birth. The baby may require endotracheal intubation to help him or her breathe. The infant will probably be limp and floppy, may experience seizure activity and require a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. The doctors will observe low Apgar scores and the lab tests will show acidosis, which is a low pH. Often the doctors will use ultrasound to look at the baby’s brain and may follow up with CT scans or MRIs.
Days or weeks later, the baby will be discharged and pediatricians or neonatologists will advise the parents that their child is at risk for developmental problems. However, the problems may not be obvious until the child is one year of age or older. Ultimately, the pediatrician or pediatric neurologist will make the diagnosis of cerebral palsy. Doctors might use the terms hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, quadriparesis or other medical terms. Often the cerebral palsy could have been prevented had the labor and delivery team properly observed, monitored and acted promptly when the unborn baby demonstrated fetal distress.
Vacuum Extractors and Forceps Can Cause Traumatic Delivery
Obstetricians use mechanical instruments to assist in the delivery of babies. There are two types of instruments used in the United States to assist with deliveries – forceps and the vacuum extractors. While proper use of both instruments can help safely deliver babies, unfortunately, these powerful instruments can also cause trauma to a baby’s head and brain. Doctors must be careful in applying and pulling a baby’s head with forceps and vacuum extractors. A baby’s brain can be injured, if the instruments are placed incorrectly, if the doctor uses too much pressure, or pulls too hard or too often. Forceps or vacuum extractors can injure several different areas of the brain, causing trauma, which leads to bleeding within the brain and results in cerebral palsy.
If forceps and/or vacuum extractors are used, the newborn may at first appear to be normal and healthy. But shortly after delivery, the newborn may begin to have trouble breathing, turn blue, demonstrate seizure activity and other abnormal neurological signs. These sick babies often will be transferred to the neonatal or newborn intensive care unit where imaging studies – ultrasound, CT scans or MRIs – are used to determine which area of the brain is affected and to what extent.
After discharge from the hospital, the baby may not meet his milestones and demonstrate physical and mental impairment.
Legal Help for Birth Injuries
If your child is injured during labor, delivery, or through a failure to treat a respiratory deficiency properly after birth, seeking legal help and guidance is an important first step in holding liable parties responsible for the harm they caused. Your child may face a lifetime of medical and assistive care, and you will have a great financial burden.
The Talaska Law Firm in Houston is committed to seeking justice for children and their parents when doctors, nurses and healthcare providers fail to meet the accepted standard of care set by the medical profession. Our attorneys practice in the areas of medical malpractice cases arising from birth injuries.