An average of 1 in 323 children in the United States has cerebral palsy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)1. This makes cerebral palsy the most common motor disability in childhood.
Most cases of cerebral palsy are present at birth. But, what parents may not know is that up to 10 percent of all cases of cerebral palsy were due to the negligence or substandard care of a medical professional.
Finding out your child suffers from a lifelong disorder like cerebral palsy is heart-wrenching and overwhelming. While the last thing a parent wants to think about is a lawsuit, contacting representation early in the process is important in ensuring your child gets the best care possible with the help of compensation.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a term used to describe a group of chronic movement disorders that affect movement, coordination, and sometimes cognition. The symptoms typically appear in early childhood. Most cases are diagnosed by the age of 3.
Cerebral palsy occurs when the brain develops abnormally or becomes damaged as it is developing. The parts of the brain affected control motor functions and muscle movements.
Although all people with CP have problems with movement and posture, many also have related conditions like impaired cognitive ability, seizures, vision and hearing issues, joint problems, and more.
Studies from around the world “report prevalence estimates of CP ranging from 1.5 to more than 4 per 1,000 live births or children of a defined age range,” according to the CDC.
In 2008, 58 percent of children with cerebral palsy could walk by themselves, but about 11 percent required a mobility device and another 30 percent could not walk at all. Nearly half of children with CP also suffer from epilepsy.
There are four major types of cerebral palsy that doctors will diagnose depending on the areas affected.
Spastic cerebral palsy is by far the most common type, affecting about 80 percent of people with cerebral palsy. This type of CP is when muscles in the body are stiff and difficult to move in smooth motions. It is characterized by increased muscle tone.
This type of cerebral palsy is further broken down into subsets, depending on the part of the body that’s affected. Here are the subsets of spastic CP:
Sometimes referred to as dyskinetic cerebral palsy, this type is characterized by uncontrollable movements that make controlling the limbs difficult. Muscle tone can vary widely, even within the span of a day.
This type of CP happens when there are lesions on the brain’s basal ganglia or cerebellum. These parts of the brain are responsible for voluntary movement and coordination.
Ataxic cerebral palsy occurs around 5–10 percent of the time, meaning it is the least frequent type. It is characterized by damage to the cerebellum, leaving the person completely uncoordinated in the limbs and torso. There may also be tremors, making it difficult to do finer tasks like tie shoelaces.
Some of the time, damage to the brain occurs in several places, causing the development of more than one type of cerebral palsy. The most common type of mixed cerebral palsy is a combination of ataxic and spasticity cerebral palsies.
Cerebral palsy is caused when there is damage to the brain during its developmental stages. This most commonly happens before birth or during birth. However, it has been known to develop up to a month after birth.
The actual causes of cerebral palsy vary greatly. These include:
There are also factors that increase the chances a child will have cerebral palsy, such as:
When a child is born with cerebral palsy, it is not unusual for parents to take life day-by-day. But, many will start to wonder just how long their child will live. The answer depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the damage to the brain and the location of the damage.
Those who can walk on their own and feed themselves have life expectancies mostly on par with those without cerebral palsy. However, major problems with motor function, epilepsy, and impaired cognitive function can reduce life expectancy significantly.
Brain damage is permanent and incurable. This means children will have to live with the motor function disorder for their entire life. While the brain will not get worse over time, certain symptoms can.
All of this means that children will have to get treatment throughout childhood and well into adulthood, depending on the severity of their symptoms. For example, people with cerebral palsy will often undergo physical therapy, speech therapy, and surgeries. On top of that, they also have to get medications for pain and seizures, mobility devices like walkers, and orthotic devices like braces.
These costs add up.
The CDC estimated that the lifetime cost for someone with cerebral palsy is about $1 million2. This does not account for the lost wages of parents and the countless hours of pain and suffering people with cerebral palsy and their loved ones must endure.
With mounting medical costs and the potential for additional therapy for mental health issues, the financial burden for people with cerebral palsy and their families can be insurmountable. For some people, there may be recourse.
Doctors, obstetricians, nurses, assistants, and other medical personnel have a duty to protect patients from harm. When they neglect that duty and put patients at risk for death and traumatic injury, they could be held accountable in court.
Medical malpractice is a rare but preventable cause of cerebral palsy that includes damaging a baby’s skull during delivery, using aggressive extraction tools incorrectly, failing to monitor the mother or baby, failing to treat infections, and more.
Parents of children born with cerebral palsy can take the individual or institution to court over claims of negligence and medical malpractice. If a jury sides with the parents or a settlement is made out of court, the money could cover past and future medical costs, loss of wages for parents, pain and suffering inflicted on the child, and more.
Parents of children with cerebral palsy are encouraged to contact an attorney as soon as possible
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