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Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy affects thousands of children every year.  Although historically there has been some debate regarding the cause of cerebral palsy, the following are known causes and result from medical malpractice.

Lack of Oxygen during Birth.  Asphyxia, or lack of oxygen, during labor or delivery can cause a baby to suffer severe brain damage which can lead to cerebral palsy.  The risk of asphyxia increases if the labor takes too long.  Asphyxiation can also occur if the mother has low blood pressure, a ruptured uterus, a detached placenta, or problems with the umbilical cord.

Untreated Jaundice. Jaundice is a condition where the skin and the whites of the eyes appear yellow as a result of build-up of a pigment called bilirubin in the blood.  Mild cases will clear up without treatment.  Severe cases, if left untreated, can cause can kill brain cells, causing permanent brain damage (kernicterus) and can result in athetoid cerebral palsy.

Failure to Recognize or Treat Seizures Following Delivery.  An infant who has seizures has a higher risk of developing cerebral palsy later in life.  If the infant seizes, the doctor should keep a close eye on the child as he or she faces a greater risk of long-term problems in the nervous system.

Failure to Perform a Timely C-Section.  Failing to perform a timely cesarean section (C-section) can contribute to the development of cerebral palsy.  C-sections are becoming more prevalent and are used when the baby is too large to fit through the birth canal or if the mother suffers from pregnancy medical disorders.  During emergency situations, the physician will have to immediately decide whether a C-section is necessary.  If the doctor delays in ordering a C-section, the momentary hesitation can cause the baby to suffer from injuries (like cerebral palsy) or can even be fatal.

Improper Use of Vacuum Extraction

A vacuum extractor is a device that helps deliver a baby.  It is a suction cup that’s placed over the baby’s head and which allows the physician to pull out the child with more ease.  Excessive use of vacuum extraction during delivery increases the risk of cerebral palsy.

Improper/Forceful Use of Forceps.  Forceps are another tool used to assist the physician in birth.  They are used to grip a baby’s head and guide it out of the birth canal.  They are designed to maintain a light grip; however, if they are used too forcefully, they can cause brain damage that results in cerebral palsy.

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