Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy, a condition that is often confused as a specific disorder, actually refers to a range of disorders that affects a person’s motor functions at an early age, even before birth. There are several different types of cerebral palsy including:

  • Spastic Cerebral Palsy is a condition in which the person has increased deep tendon reflexes, impaired motor coordination, muscle weakness, fatigability, and increased muscle tone which causes a rigid posture in the person’s body typically affecting their arms or legs. The rigidity may give way with some force, sometimes completely and suddenly. This spasticity may lead to the inability to coordinate movements.
  • Choreoathetoid Cerebral Palsy is associated with uncontrollable or abnormal movements of the person’s extremities. Persons with choreoathetoid cerebral palsy, unlike spastic cerebral palsy, often have variable muscle tone or decreased muscle tone (hypotonia). A person with this condition will often have abnormal movements caused by stress or emotional reactions. Movement of the body or extremities may also cause involuntary movement within other regions of the body such as the arms, legs, or trunk. This often causes abnormal posture or facial expressions due to muscle contractions. 
  • Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy involves reduced muscle tone. Often a child born with hypotonia cerebral palsy appears like a rag doll with reduced movement of their extremities. In early infancy, hypotonia may be detected when the infants arms are pulled into a sitting position and the infant has the inability to gain any control over its head, often referred to as head lag.

These conditions which cause the abnormality in the motor system are typically the result of brain lesions, which are any abnormality of the brain structure or function that are non-progressive or do not produce ongoing degeneration of the brain. This means that whatever brain damage occurred at the time of injury is the extent of damage the child will have for the rest of their life. Many of the causes of cerebral palsy occur while the baby is developing in the womb, but may happen during the first two years of the child’s life, while the brain is still developing. Some of the conditions or risk factors which may result in cerebral palsy are:

  • Brain hemorrhaging
  • Brain infections
  • Head injury
  • Premature birth weight
  • Infections in the mother during pregnancy
  • Poorly developed lungs which deplete oxygen to the brain
  • Jaundice
  • Child abuse
  • Passed down through genetics which is also known as a chromosomal disorder

Cerebral Palsy, aside from natural causes, may also be caused by drugs taken during pregnancy and obstetric and or neonatal malpractice. Obstetric malpractice cases where brain damage has been inflicted on the child are probably the most aggressively defended of all malpractice cases. When a child suffers brain damage due to obstetric malpractice, the parents may be told the cause of their child’s condition is either unknown, genetic, or from an infection to hide the truth. Doctors may even use a defense tactic in an obstetric malpractice case by having a host of physicians in a variety of specialized fields inspect the child to testify on the hospital’s behalf.

Sweeney Law Firm works with obstetricians, perinatologists, pediatric neurologists, midwives, obstetric nurses, pathologists, pediatric neurologists, life care planners, economists and other professionals to analyze prenatal records, labor and delivery records, newborn and pediatric records, imaging studies including ultrasounds, CT scans and MRIs of the brain and other sources of information to determine if malpractice occurred.