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Cerebral Palsy, Brain Damage, and Erb's Palsy

Lawyers Incorporated spends most of its time devoted to cerebral palsy, brain damage, and Erb's palsy cases. Here is a quick overview in terms that you can understand.

Cerebral palsy is a term that describes a group of disorders that affect movement control. There is not one specific cause of cerebral palsy, however, it can be caused by injury to the brain before, during, or after birth.

Cerebral palsy may be acquired after the birth of a child. This results from damage to the brain in the first months, or years of life. The injury may be a brain infection (bacterial meningitis, viral encephalitis) or head injury following an accident.

The medical providers caring for the expectant mother and the fetus are responsible to assure that they provide adequate care during the pregnancy, during labor and delivery, and immediately after the delivery of the infant. Failing to do so can result in the doctors and nurses being held accountable for the outcome of the pregnancy. The problems that may be encountered include:

  • Improper use of Pitocin (used to induce labor)
  • Failure to interpret and respond to the changing conditions of the fetus during labor
  • Failure to act on changes in the mother's condition during pregnancy
  • Failure to order specific tests during pregnancy; and not interpreting these tests correctly
  • Failure to perform a cesarean section in the presence of fetal distress
  • Failure to deliver the infant when the membranes have been ruptured for too long.
  • Excessive use of vacuum extraction.
Lack of oxygen to the brain or trauma to the head during labor and delivery can cause cerebral palsy. If the infant does not get enough oxygen the brain can be injured. There are many factors that suggest the injury occured as a result of improper medical care, or insult to the brain during the birthing process:
  • The infant demonstrates poor sucking after birth
  • Seizures develop within 24 to 48 hours
  • The child is floppy at birth
  • The skin is blue or dusky at birth
  • The infant needs resuscitation at, or shortly after birth because he/she is not breathing
  • A baby who was born full-term, but does not go home at the same time as the mother
  • There was no indication of trauma or infection during the pregnancy
  • There is no history in the family of brain damage
  • The infant has problems maintaining temperature after birth
  • The bag of waters was ruptured for over 24 hours
  • There is meconium (fecal) staining on the baby at the time of delivery.
The following are actual complaints of mothers where the medical negligence resulted in a child being born with cerebral palsy:
  1. Failed to do a C-Section or do a C-Section sooner
  2. Failed to diagnose fetal distress (the baby was having problems during labor)
  3. Did not interpret the fetal monitor strip correctly
  4. Did not act soon enough when:
    1. My bag of water broke
    2. I had bleeding
    3. My labor did not progress and took too long
    4. My blood pressure got to high
  5. Gave too much Pitocin and injured the baby
  6. Did not refer me to a doctor specializing in high risk pregnancies
  7. Did not have a pediatrician present at delivery when they knew there might be problems with my baby.
Erb's palsy, Brachial Plexus Palsy, or Shoulder Dystocia occurs when excessive lateral traction is applied to the fetal neck region during delivery. This can cause the childs nerves to be torn, resulting in a limp arm. Tearing of these nerves can cause permanent paralysis of the arm.

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