Cerebral Palsy & Birth Injury Claims

Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a group of long lasting conditions which affect body movement and muscle co-ordination. The disease is caused by damage to one or more parts of the brain. The damage usually occurs in a number of different ways:

  • during the pregnancy
  • during birth
  • shortly after birth
  • during infancy.

Types and Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

Lack of oxygen to the brain during child birth can result in cerebral palsy involving all four limbs known as quadriplegic cerebral palsy, with a generalised rigidity of muscular tone or spasticity. These children also usually have severe learning difficulties, epilepsy and related problems which are permanent and need extensive care. They will often have other special needs and a reduced life expectation.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy is the most common form of cerebral palsy and affects the body’s ability to relax muscles causing rigidity. The control of movement will therefore be poor. The condition will often result from a prolonged partial deprivation of oxygen prior to delivery. Often a child will have severe learning disabilities and a reduced life expectancy. The child will probably have had fits as a new born and the appearance of the injury will be evident on MRI scanning of the brain.
Children who have suffered a short or acute deprivation of oxygen before delivery might acquire disconnected cerebral palsy or athetoid cerebral palsy. People with athetoid cerebral palsy will tend to make unintended movements, sometimes writhing in appearance and will have some lost control over posture. Often such a child would have a severe difficulty (caused by damage to the brain’s basal ganglia, the deep grey matter) but with a preserved intelligence and comprehension. Again damage can be seen on MRI scanning.

Children with Ataxic Cerebral Palsy caused by birth injury might have more subtle symptoms often associated with problems with balance, speech and perhaps shaky hand movements.
Children with Hemiplegia (damage to one side of the brain only) are less likely to have acquired their injury as a result of oxygen starvation at birth although there is a recognised association. with Diplegia (where the injury affects the lower limbs more than the upper or vice versa). This might have resulted if there is clear evidence of the child’s distress prior to and after birth.

The most usual consequence of oxygen starvation before birth is swelling of the brain called hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy. This is a recognised condition with a number of features usually comprised of seizures, disordered muscular tone and on a lesser scale poor feeling and irritability. The condition can cause a cessation of breathing, deep coma and even death.

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