What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy is a description of a group of permanent movement disorders arising as a result of damage to part of the brain.
It can range from mild to severe involving significant limb spasticity and restricted movement with poor coordination and stiff or weak muscles. Some sufferers are cognitively impaired while others are intact but have physical disability. Vision, hearing and senses can be impaired.
What are the causes?
The condition does not have one cause. Some instances arise from developmental problems before birth (in utero) while others can result from maternal infection eg toxoplasmosis or rubella during pregnancy or as a result of acquired infection soon after birth eg Group Strep B resulting in meningitis. It is also common in premature infants and some cases are thought to have a genetic cause.
If a baby is deprived of oxygen during delivery then this can result in Neurological injury leaving a baby with cerebral palsy. Sometimes, cerebral palsy can be the result of complications in the early neonatal period such as hypoglycaemia, hypocalcaemia or untreated severe jaundice (hyperbilirubinaemia and kernicterus).
Young children who have been born without the condition can develop it after serious head injury.
However, often the cause of cerebral palsy remains unknown.
The condition does not have a cure but the symptoms can be managed and many children require physiotherapy, occupational therapy, treatment with anticonvulsants and some may be assisted by surgery for symptom relief. However, caring for someone with cerebral palsy often requires a team of people to manage physical disability.
Claims relating to cerebral palsy
Most deliveries are problem free but childbirth can be complicated for some mothers and babies and a minority of those will go on to develop permanent problems as a result of something that happened during delivery. This can include the development of cerebral palsy.
Extended labour or delays in making a decision to perform a caesarean section can sometimes result in a claim. Not all cases of oxygen starvation will be negligent but there are times where the medical team may have failed to respond to signs of a distressed baby and as such failed to ensure prompt delivery.
The management of a premature baby after delivery is sometimes sub optimal and if treatment should have been different or given earlier it is sometimes possible to bring a claim. Claims arising from the circumstances of a delivery are rare and a diagnosis of cerebral palsy does not mean that care has been negligent,
Cerebral palsy claims are notoriously complex and often strongly defended as they are often very valuable claims. It is crucial that a solicitor who has experience of cerebral palsy claims is instructed as they take a very long time to investigate, not least because the most experienced experts have huge waiting lists. They also take a long time to value and it will be necessary for the child to be visited and examined by suitable experts to assess their condition, prognosis and needs.
If you or a family member have been affected by the issues in this article then contact a member of our clinical negligence team on 0800 316 8892 or by e-mail.