Brain injury, otherwise known as traumatic brain injury or intracranial injury, is an injury caused by some external force or factor. There are different degrees of brain injury; it can present as impairment when considered minor or it can lead to severe physical disability or paralysis and/or cognitive impairment when considered severe.
For children who have developing brains still making connections, these injuries can be devastating, debilitating and cause substantial harm. Often, these injuries are caused by situations that are unsafe and/or preventable.
If your child suffered brain injury due to negligent care at birth, you and your family deserve answers. To discuss the details of your case, please call Stern Law, PLLC at (800)462-5772 today. We are here to answer your questions, without charge or obligation.
Common Causes of Cerebral Palsy Brain Injury in Children
Some of the most common causes of harm to a baby's developing brain before, during, or after delivery include:
- Birth asphyxia/lack of oxygen – A serious cause of brain injury, birth asphyxia is a medical term used to describe when the unborn baby’s brain receives inadequate, or no oxygen supply. Often, birth asphyxia is caused by conditions that can be monitored by doctors and the delivery room staff. These include excessive bleeding that goes untreated during pregnancy, prolonged traumatic delivery, prolapsed umbilical cord, or maternal shock. The result of asphyxia is typically some degree of irreversible developmental delay or intellectual disability.
- Cerebral palsy – A general term for varied permanent disorders that cause mild to severe physical impairment and/or developmental and intellectual difficulties, cerebral palsy is caused by an injury to the portions of the brain that control movement. To date, cerebral palsy has no known cure, and will likely require lifelong medical treatments, therapies and support. When it can be proven in a court of law that the child’s cerebral palsy is caused by negligence, a family can pursue compensation for their child’s future care, medical treatments, assistive devices, and more.
- Cognitive impairment – Cognitive impairment is a condition that impairs a person’s ability to understand, remember, process and apply information in proper context to their lives. Often, it’s the result of preventable brain damage that occurs in infants. When a person has significant cognitive impairment, they often need financial support for a lifetime and are dependent upon others for guidance and supervision.
- Erb’s palsy – Erb’s palsy is a condition that causes injury to the arm, head and shoulder region, sometimes severing the nerves in the upper trunk. This condition can be caused by shoulder dystocia during traumatic or difficult childbirth. If the damage – which typically takes place during delivery – is minimal, the paralysis may repair and resolve with rehabilitative measures. Other times, the condition is a permanent one that leaves a child with impairment and requires rehabilitation or surgery.
- Hematomas – Vacuum extractions and forceps, often used as an alternative to cesarean section deliveries, can be utilized during labor to help an expectant mother deliver her baby. When vacuum extractions are performed improperly they can cause subgaleal hematoma, a condition that ruptures the veins causing a dangerous accumulation of blood. There are established standards on when and how these tools are to be used safely during the delivery process. If a doctor, for example, opts to use a vacuum extractor when the mother is less than 32 weeks gestational, has cephalopelvic disproportion, or when neonatal resuscitation is not possible, negligence should be investigated.
- Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy – When the brain is deprived of oxygen supply, it’s referred to as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (“HIE”), or intrapartum asphyxia, which can be fatal. HIE, as a result of fetal or neonatal asphyxia, is a leading cause of death or severe impairment among infants, including epilepsy, developmental delay, motor impairment, neurodevelopmental delay and cognitive impairment. Although HIE can be caused by prematurity and complications of birth, HIE or asphyxia could suggest medical malpractice.
- Intracranial hemorrhages – Intracranial bleeding is most often caused by physical trauma to the head; it can occur before (i.e., auto accident while the mother is pregnant), during (i.e., traumatic delivery or improper use of forceps) or after (i.e., shaken baby syndrome) a child is born. If a brain bleed is undetected, and blood builds up, it can lead to intracranial pressure and damage to the brain’s delicate tissue crucial to development and motor function.
- Klumpke’s palsy – A little known condition that involves nerve damage to the lower brachial plexus resulting in paralysis to the wrist and hand. Klumpke’s palsy is most commonly caused by difficulties experienced during the delivery process, often involving improper delivery techniques or too much force applied to the baby’s neck and shoulders. If it can be proven that shoulder dystocia or breech presentation should have been foreseen, compensation for injury may be pursued for malpractice.
- Maternal shock – Maternal shock is something that happens to expectant mothers during pregnancy, labor and delivery or up to six weeks after a child is born due to complications. It can be fatal, but is thought to be highly preventable as signs and symptoms often foreshadow serious risks, allowing for proper treatment. If placenta previa, placental abruption, uterine rupture or undiagnosed cervical or vaginal cancer present and maternal shock or wrongful death resulted, a family may be entitled to compensation.
- Periventricular Leukomalacia – An injury that involves the white matter of the brain and results in fluid filled lateral ventricles and unstable transmission of nerve impulses, periventicular leukomalacia (“PVL”) most often affect fetuses and premature infants, particularly those born prior to 32 weeks gestation and having a birth weight below 3.3 lbs. It is estimated that 60 to 100% of infants born with PVL will be diagnosed with cerebral palsy and spasticity. It is believed that hypotension, hypoxemia, acidosis and carbon dioxide deficiencies in mechanically ventilated premature infants can lead to PVL.
- Seizures and untreated seizure – Seizures are disturbances in the brain’s impulses that need immediate and often long-term medical treatment. If an infant suffers from seizures due to medical error – undiagnosed, untreated or uncontrolled seizures – the infant is at risk for permanent nerve cell injury or damaged cognitive function. Birth asphyxia is a common cause of neonatal seizures that require prompt resuscitation, heart activity interventions, the prevention of elevated body temperatures and monitoring of blood sugar levels.
- Traumatic birth delivery – Physical processes that take place during the delivery process can exert enormous amounts of pressure on a newborn, resulting in traumatic brain damage. Mechanical injury and trauma to the baby’s skull, face or brain can be caused by the improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors during the delivery process. Placed incorrectly, applied with excessive traction or pressure, or pulled excessively, can all leave a baby’s brain severely injured.
Children who were deprived of their full potential to live a normal life due to medical errors deserve the best care possible as well as a team of compassionate, yet aggressive, brain injury lawyers to fight for their rights. Stern Law, PLLC is committed to providing parents with answers, hope and the information they need to make informed decisions about their child’s future. Call (800)462-5772 today for a free evaluation of your claim.