Cerebral palsy is primarily a neurological condition that affects mobility. It is caused by either malformation of the brain or damage to the brain before, during or after birth. Medical experts have discovered four main types of brain damage involved . These are classified according to the type and timing of the injury received during brain development.
Cerebral dysgenesis is a type of brain damage that involves abnormal brain growth. This results in a brain that did not fully develop or has portions missing. This type of damage can occur any time during fetal development. Risk factors for developing cerebral dysgenesis include fever, infections and trauma during pregnancy among others. In addition genetic mutations may cause damaged cells to reproduce during fetal development.
Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) is damage to the white matter of the brain tissue. This damage results in death and decay of brain cells, which leaves empty areas within the brain that fill with fluid. This can interrupt the transmission of nerve impulses and can cause impaired brain function and spasticity. It is believed that intrauterine infections, which deliver toxins to the membranes surrounding a developing fetus, are a primary cause of PVL.
The third type is intracranial hemorrhage (IVH) CP related brain damage. This damage is caused by bleeding in the brain which is either arterial, involving blood from the heart, or venous, involving blood returning to the heart. IVH most often occurs within the first 48 hours after birth. It can cause localized swelling or hematomas, which can damage or kill brain tissue by compressing it or reducing its supply of blood. IVH can come from an infant’s own blood clotting abnormalities or malformed blood vessels, a mother’s hypertension or infection, placental blood clots, shaken baby syndrome or head injury.
The type is hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), also known as intrapartum asphyxia or a lack of oxygen to the brain. Studies have shown that only 9% of CP cases are directly related to HIE. However, HIE is the leading cause of severe impairment or death in infants, and is most common in infants that have reached full-term. It also the type that is most commonly associated with medical malpractice.
Oxygen deprivation can come from many sources including umbilical cord complications, uterine rupture, acute hypotension or hemorrhage in the mother, as well as a host of other situations. Many, of the causes of oxygen deprivation to the unborn child are unrelated to medical negligence. However, medical negligence is a significant cause and should not be ruled out without further investigation.
It is important to identify the causes of cerebral palsy. There are many causes of cerebral palsy and many factors that would lead to oxygen deprivation so it should not be assumed that medical negligence caused the birth injuries. On the other hand, it should not be assumed that it is not. An experienced personal injury attorney can assist in making that determination.