The term cerebral palsy refers to a group of disorders that affects a person’s ability to move. “Cerebral” refers to the cerebrum, which is the part of the brain that controls movement. “Palsy” refers to a paralysis of voluntary movement in certain parts of the body. When the motor control portion of the brain is damaged, as it is in people with cerebral palsy, voluntary and involuntary motor skills do not function properly. This can present significant challenges affecting how someone walks and talks, and potentially their ability to perform everyday tasks.
Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood, and it is estimated that 1 in 323 children have some version of the disorder. Most people with cerebral palsy can walk and verbally communicate but may have some difficulty doing so. There are four types of cerebral palsy:
- Spastic cerebral palsy—most common. Affects 70% of patients. Characterized by increased muscle tone and stiff, tight muscles.
- Athetoid cerebral palsy—characterized by uncontrollable movements—Affects 10-20% of patients
- Ataxic cerebral palsy—least common. Affects 5% of patients. Characterized by difficulties with balance and coordination.
- Mixed cerebral palsy—features characteristics of different types.
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
Symptoms of cerebral palsy vary depending on the individual because there are so many different types of cerebral palsy. There are some common signs and symptoms in children that may help formulate a cerebral palsy diagnosis:
- Variations in muscle tone (too stiff or too floppy)
- Spasticity—stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes
- Rigidity—stiff muscles with normal reflexes
- Lack of muscle coordination
- Involuntary movements or tremors
- Athetosis—slow, writhing movements
- Delays in reaching motor skills milestones
- Favoring one side of the body
- Problems swallowing or excessive drooling
- Speech development delays
- Fine motor skill delays
Cerebral palsy can affect one limb or side of the body, or it can affect the whole body. The brain disorder is not progressive, so it does not get worse over time.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
There are several possible causes of this damage:
- Brain injury, such as blunt trauma, during birth
- Abnormal bleeding on the brain before birth
- Oxygen deprivation (asphyxiation) before or during birth
- Infections during pregnancy or after birth
- Severe, untreated jaundice
- Genetic factors
- Brain injuries during infancy
Medical negligence may be the cause of a cerebral palsy case. Examples of medical negligence include:
- A negligent decision by the medical expert, such as a delay in ordering an emergency caesarean section or failing to recognize the need for a caesarean section.
- A failure to act by the medical staff. For example, a failure to detect the umbilical cord wrapped around a baby’s neck, which would lead to brain damage.
- Misuse of medical tools. For instance, the use of forceps or vacuum extraction (meant to hasten or facilitate delivery) can cause harm to the infant’s brain.
- The medical staff failed to read the fetal monitor strip correctly.
- Traumatic delivery
Contact an Experienced Attorney
If your child has cerebral palsy and you think it may the result of a medical provider’s negligence, you should have an attorney evaluate your case. At Bonina & Bonina, P.C., we have over 50 years of experience helping New Yorkers coping with birth injuries. Contact us online or call us at 1-888-MED-LAW1 to schedule your free consultation. Home and hospital visits available. Se habla espaňol.