Cerebral Palsy is a broad term for a number of neurological conditions. These tend to affect movement and co-ordination. It may also affect other important functions such as communication, hearing, vision and the ability to learn.
Cerebral Palsy can feel like a devastating diagnosis but it covers a wide spectrum of difficulties.
If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and you believe this may be due to some one else’s negligence, you may want to take legal advice.
It was thought that cerebral palsy was predominantly caused by a child being deprived of oxygen (asphyxiation) during birth. A major research project carried out in the 1980s showed that only 9% of cases were caused by asphyxiation.
One of the most common types of brain damage caused by oxygen loss is called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). HIE can result in severe developmental or cognitive impairments. These become evident as a child develops.
In the remaining 91% of cases it was found that the cerebral palsy was due to problems with the brain that developed before the child was born. Other factors included premature birth, complications of birth or problems immediately following birth. In some cases, cause cannot be definitively determined.
There are three main problems that can affect the brain before birth causing cerebral palsy. The first is Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). It is believed that the damage to the brain caused by PVL is due to a lack of oxygen. It is not clear why it occurs. It has been linked to infections caught by the mother and to premature births of 32 weeks or earlier.
The second problem is abnormal brain development. If the brain doesn’t develop normally then this can result in cerebral palsy. While in the womb, brain development can be affected by gene mutations, infections caught by the mother and trauma or injury to the unborn baby’s head.
The final problem is intracranial haemorrhage and stroke. A stroke usually occurs when a blockage forms cutting off the blood supply to the brain. This is known as an ischemic stroke. It can occur due to bleeding in the brain. Called a haemorrhagic stroke. These result in the damage of brain tissue and result in cerebral palsy. The risk of stroke increases if the mother catches an infection during pregnancy, has high blood pressure, or the baby is born prematurely.
These are the main problems which result in cerebral palsy. There may be no obvious single cause but a culmination of several factors which increase the risk of the development of cerebral palsy.
Symptoms of cerebral palsy tend to become apparent within the child’s first three years. For instance the child may be slower in achieving important developmental milestones such as crawling, walking and talking.
Due to the nature of brain injuries the symptoms of cerebral palsy differ drastically. No two individuals with cerebral palsy have identical symptoms. Some individuals are only mildly affected. Others can be severely disabled.
There are many common symptoms such as:
- communication problems
- learning difficulties (although intelligence is often unaffected
- Cognitive deficits, epilepsy (up to a third of children)
- hearing loss (only 8% of children)
- behavioural problems (one in four children)
- drooling: and,
- swallowing difficulties.
This is by no means an exhaustive list.
Talk to us if your child has been diagnosed as suffering from cerebral palsy. Whether the negligence was by those looking after you and your unborn baby or those who delivered your baby, there may be a claim.
Your child’s claim can be pursued at any time before they reach the age of 21. And beyond in some exceptional circumstances. It is always worth seeking advice.
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