Is Cerebral Palsy Preventable?

Cerebral palsy is a term that describes a group of movement disorders which result from damage to areas of the brain responsible for muscle and motor control. A non-progressive disease, cerebral palsy can create a lifetime of physical limitations, and can range in severity depending on how severely the bran was damaged.

Because the exact cause of cerebral palsy is not fully understood, there is no current method to completely prevent the disorder from developing during pregnancy, delivery, or after birth. However, there are known risk factors and forms of medical negligence that can lead to traumatic injuries that affect a baby’s brain – and medical professionals have an obligation to take appropriate steps in reducing those risks.

When it comes to medical malpractice and cerebral palsy, determining the underlying cause is crucially important to helping victims understand their rights to pursue legal action and birth injury lawsuits. This includes evaluating whether substandard care or medical errors were involved, and working with appropriate medical experts who can assist skilled attorneys in structuring arguments that prove a condition could and should have been prevented.

Although every case is different, there are some common preventable causes of cerebral palsy related to substandard medical care before, during, and after birth:

  • Before birth – Doctors who treat pregnant mothers have a legal duty to conduct appropriate prenatal tests and evaluate risk factors that can disrupt the development of a baby’s brain. Although some risk factors present during pregnancy cannot always be avoided, there are pregnancy complications that should be identified and treated appropriately by a reasonably skillful health care professional, including certain infections in the mother (i.e. measles, CMV, etc.), certain health issues such as pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH), and risk factors that would alert a doctor to the need for a C-section to avoid oxygen deprivation during delivery.
  • During delivery – Roughly 20 percent of cerebral palsy cases result from birth injuries, including those that occur during labor and delivery and which are caused by negligent medical care. For example, failing to monitor a baby’s fetal heart rate for signs of fetal distress and oxygen deprivation may cause medical professionals to fail in making an appropriate response to avoid injuries, such as a timely C-section. Placental problems, improper use of forceps or vacuums, improper use of labor inducing drugs such as Pitocin, uterine rupture, umbilical cord problems, and other complications or acts of negligence can also cause oxygen deprivation and hypoxic brain damage that lead to cerebral palsy. Medical professionals who do not foresee complications that could and should have been foreseen or take reasonable steps to address them could be held liable for preventable injuries.
  • After delivery – Nurses and doctors also have a duty to provide acceptable care after a baby is delivered, and to take proper steps in addressing complications and risk factors that may lead to brain damage, or prevent brain damage. This can include treating severe jaundice, avoiding blunt trauma to the brain, managing infections, addressing asphyxiation caused by airway obstruction, properly resuscitating a newborn, performing head cooling, ensuring proper intubation, and more.

With the exception of severe cases such as spastic cerebral palsy, accurately diagnosing cerebral palsy can take time, and it may not be identified for up to 18 months to 2 years after birth. When parents suspect their child may have the condition, as a result of their missing developmental milestones and other problems, they should seek medical evaluations immediately. Families can also speak with experienced birth injury lawyers to determine if their child’s condition may have resulted from medical negligence during pregnancy or birth.

At Hampton & King, our award-winning Houston medical malpractice lawyers have successfully resolved cases involving preventable birth injuries that resulted in brain damage, cerebral palsy, and other life-altering impairments and conditions. We understand the tremendous costs associated with caring for a child with cerebral palsy, as well as the profound emotional injuries families endure when they discover their child’s condition could have been avoided – which is why we not only fight to prove fault and liability, but also help parents obtain resources such as life care plans to better manage their future.

If you wish to speak with a member of our team about a possible case, please contact us for a free case evaluation.