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Cerebral Palsy


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Cerebral Palsy Cause - Medical Negligence Compensation Claim Solicitors

This condition occurs as a result of irreversible damage caused to a childs brain during pregnancy or labour or shortly after birth. The most common cerebral palsy cause is a failure of the brain to develop properly resulting in neurological damage which may be as a result of medical negligence or a congenital birth defect. If you would like legal advice at no cost on medical negligence compensation claims just complete the contact form or email our offices or use the helpline and a lawyer will review your information and phone you immediately with no charge and with no obligation.

Our medical negligence solicitors have offices situated in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, Darwin, and Sydney. Do yourself justice - give us a call.

Catastrophic Injuries

This condition is a catastrophic injury altering the lives of both victims and their families forever. Most families don't have the resources to cover all of the expenses and provide for the child over his or her lifetime. Thats were we come in to assist your child to claim the compensation they deserve. We can help you assert your child's rights and get the compensation that your child needs and deserves to ensure the best ongoing treatment.

Birth Defects

Many infants suffer from a 'birth defect' which is a naturally occurring anomaly within the brain. In the absence of the presence of negligence risk factors it is usually assumed that the problem was caused by natural occurrences. Birth defects can still occur even when the mother has strictly followed good pre-natal care during pregnancy. There are a number of pre-natal maternal risk factors which include:

  • exposure to rubella, toxoplasmosis and cytomegalovirus
  • exposure to chemicals including alcohol, cigarettes and cocaine
  • premature birth
  • severe physical trauma during pregnancy
  • low birth weight

Clinical Errors

Healthcare professionals negligence can cause brain injury including:

  • failure to detect a prolapsed umbilical cord
  • improper use of delivery forceps
  • inadequate monitoring of foetal heart rate
  • failure to perform a c-section in the presence of foetal distress
  • leaving the child in the birth canal too long
  • failure to plan a c-section for a potentially large birth weight
  • Use of excessive vacuum extraction
  • failure to diagnose and treat jaundice or meningitis
  • failure to treat post-natal seizures
  • failure to respond to the mother's high blood pressure or toxaemia

Medical Negligence Indicators

If any of the following events occurred it may be an indicator justifying further investigation and medical negligence advice to establish the cerebral palsy cause:

  • emergency delivery with forceps, or by c-section
  • CPR resuscitation immediately following birth
  • seizures within the first 3-4 days of life
  • intensive care unit
  • MRI scan, CT scan or brain scan
  • oxygen required to facilitate breathing after birth
  • a specialist called to attend

Cerebral Palsy Cause Overview

Cerebral Palsy is a brain disorder that usually affects babies and toddlers at the start of the disease but eventually lasts a lifetime. In its most basic form it is the result of damage to the cells of the brain affecting the motor system, although some children can have deficits in cognition or "thinking". It can occur early in the pregnancy, when the foetal brain is just beginning to develop. It can also happen as the child is passing through the birth canal. Finally, it has been known to be caused by trauma to the brain after the child is born - usually up to one year of age.

In many cases, the cause of cerebral palsy is not known. Historically speaking, it was thought that a lack of oxygen during passage through the birth canal - a mistake on the part of the doctor - was the cause of the disease but this has since been found to make up only a small fraction of cases of cerebral palsy.

In fact, about 70 to 80 percent of all cases of CP begin while the foetus is still in the womb. The causes are several. Less than ten percent occur during the birthing process and about 10-20 percent of cases occur after the child has been born and is home from the hospital. There are some specialists who believe that cerebral palsy occurs as a result of a combination of before birth, during birth and after birth processes.

There are several causes of cerebral palsy you'll want to be aware of. These include :-

Health Problems in the Mother. If the pregnant mother suffers an infection in pregnancy that affects the foetus, if she has a seizure disorder, if she has a thyroid condition or other medical problems that affect the way the foetal brain develops, the brain cells can develop poorly or not at all, resulting in cerebral palsy that is relatively easy to identify early in infancy. The brain develops all through the trimesters of pregnancy but problems occurring in the first trimester have the greatest impact on brain development.

Birth defects in the infant. Infants can be born with obvious defects of the brain, head, face, metabolism, spinal cord or lungs that affect oxygenation to the infant brain or the actual growth and development of the foetal brain. This can lead to cerebral palsy that is identifiable shortly after birth.

Rh factor Incompatibility. This is fortunately a rare occurrence. If the mother is Rh negative and the foetus is Rh positive, her immune cells attack the cells of the foetus, which can result in cerebral palsy. It is a rare occurrence because doctors always check for Rh incompatibility syndrome in all pregnancies.

Genetic Defects. Infants can be born with survivable but devastating gene mutations that result in genetic disorders leading to cerebral palsy. Some of these genetic defects can be determined before birth during an amniocentesis; however, others are more rare and need special analyses to be identified.

Labour and Delivery Complications. This can occur when the foetus gets stuck in the birth canal or suffers umbilical cord compression so that there is a period of time when oxygen does not get to the foetal brain and brain cells die. If the foetus survives the period of anoxia or lack of oxygen, cerebral palsy can be the result.

Pre-term Birth. Any infant born prematurely can have disruptions of the way the brain develops which results in cerebral palsy that shows up after birth. Any infant born less than two pounds at the time of birth is at an increased risk for cerebral palsy.

Severe Jaundice after birth. Elevated bilirubin levels can damage the newborn brain to the point where cerebral palsy can result. With frequent testing of the bilirubin level in newborns, this is an uncommon problem.

Multiple Births. If a baby is a twin or triplet or more, there is an increased likelihood of a small baby or a baby that suffers from a lack of oxygen while in the womb. One or more of the babies can have neurological damage that affects the motor nerve cells.

Hypoxia. Hypoxia or lack of adequate oxygen can happen due to umbilical cord injury in the womb or at the time of birth. It can also happen after birth, while the brain is still growing or developing.

Brain damage in early life. This can be caused by a number of factors, including having a neonatal infection such as meningitis, a head injury caused by a fall or child abuse, lack of oxygen for any reason, or bleeding in the brain from a blood vessel anomaly or trauma to the head. One of the more common reasons why babies get cerebral palsy after birth is "shaken baby syndrome" which is when baby's head gets shaken, causing bleeding in the brain and trauma to brain cells.

Foetal stroke. Even babies can suffer from strokes, which can be ischaemic (due to blockage of blood vessels) or haemorrhagic (due to bleeding in parts of the brain). If the part of the brain affected is the motor cell area, these parts don't develop correctly and the child has cerebral palsy within a few months.

It is a sad fact of life that most cases of cerebral palsy happen at unknown times in foetal or infant life and are completely unpreventable. While it was once thought that cerebral palsy was only the result of bad medicine on the doctor's part, it is now known that anything from a maternal infection to a case of child abuse can be the cause of the condition.

Unfortunately, this means that much of cerebral palsy is unpreventable. Only in cases of pre-term birth or perhaps child abuse prevention and car accident prevention can parents do something to make sure their child doesn't become a victim of cerebral palsy. Doctors are also careful to oxygenate pre-term babies so they don't have episodes of anoxia or low oxygen that are severe enough to damage brain cells.


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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here