Periventricular Leukomalacia Symptoms

Jerky, spastic movements. Poor body control. Walking on tiptoes. These are all periventricular leukomalacia symptoms in infants. They’re signs that something went wrong during gestation or birth. 

Has your child received a PVL brain injury diagnosis? We’ll tell you what the symptoms are, and what you can do if doctors are to blame for your child’s injury. 

Infant with periventricular leukomalacia in NICU.

What is Periventricular Leukomalacia?

Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL) is a type of brain injury in infants. It’s a rare condition that most often affects infants in the third trimester. But it can also occur in premature babies born before 32 weeks of gestation.

A PVL brain injury affects the periventricular white matter of the brain. The white matter has nerve fibers that control motor function. When this matter decays, holes form that can fill up with fluid. This damage doesn’t heal, so the infant may develop movement, cognitive, and vision problems. 

What Causes Periventricular Leukomalacia?

A lack of blood flow to a baby’s developing brain can cause a PVL brain injury. This shortage of blood supply can stem from the following causes:

  • Intraventricular hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain).
  • Restriction of blood flow around the baby’s brain ventricles during gestation.
  • Restriction of blood flow from mother to baby during delivery. 
  • Infections, such as chorioamnionitis.
  • The baby is born premature or has low birth weight, making the brain prone to injury.

Physicians who fail to follow protocol during pregnancy and delivery can commit negligent actions that lead to PVL. These cases of periventricular leukomalacia are preventable. If you believe your child has PVL because of a doctor’s mistake, please contact us to review your case. 

Periventricular Leukomalacia Symptoms

Periventricular leukomalacia symptoms aren’t progressive. That means they won’t get worse as a child grows. But they do become more noticeable over time. In fact, parents don’t often see evidence of PLV brain injury until the baby is a few months old. At that point, they should look out for the following signs:

  • Jerky, spastic movements
  • Tight leg muscles
  • Poor body control and eye control
  • “Scissor” walking (knees crossing while walking)
  • Walking on tiptoes 

Keep in mind that the symptoms of PLV depend on how severe the white matter damage is. In mild cases there may be no physical symptoms at all, just cognitive delays. 

This isn’t an exhaustive list. But here are the most common periventricular leukomalacia symptoms:

Developmental Delays

“My baby isn’t hitting his milestones.” That’s what you should tell your pediatrician if you notice your child isn’t sitting up, crawling, or walking when it’s age appropriate to do so. Reaching developmental milestones can be a challenge for children with PLV.

Muscle Weakness or Stiffness

PVL can affect a child’s muscle tone. It can cause stiffness or weakness in the arms, legs, or trunk. This may make it difficult for the child to move or control their movements.

Vision or Hearing Impairments

Sometimes PLV involves damage to the areas of the brain that control vision and hearing.

In those cases, periventricular leukomalacia symptoms could include blurred vision, double vision, or difficulty hearing. 

Intellectual Disabilities

Children with PVL may have difficulties with learning, memory, attention, and other cognitive functions. These disabilities may range from mild to severe. 


PVL can increase the risk of seizures in some children. These seizures may be focal or generalized. They may occur at any time during the child’s development.

Spastic Diplegia

A common symptom of severe PLV is spastic diplegia. It is a type of cerebral palsy that affects the lower half of the body. Children with this condition have trouble walking, and may learn to walk on “tippy toes”. 

Seeking legal help for PVL injury.

Legal Help for Your Child’s PVL Brain Injury 

Children with periventricular leukomalacia need extra care beyond routine doctor “check-ups”. Many grow up to lead healthy, independent adult lives. But they will need assistance, therapy, and treatment to get there. 

Treatment may include speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, medication, and surgery. As you think of everything your child will need for a better quality of life, one important question comes to mind. “How am I going to pay for this?” 

Doctors receive training to prevent PVL. If your physicians broke protocol, your child’s injury may be their fault. You may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against them. 

The purpose of this lawsuit is threefold:

  • First, you deserve justice for a doctor’s wrongdoing.
  • Second, you may receive compensation. You can apply these funds to your child’s existing and future medical bills. 
  • Third, filing a PVL brain injury lawsuit brings awareness to delivery negligence. You can help prevent physicians from making the same mistake twice. 

Please note that each state puts a time limit on how long you have to file. The limit may be just 2 years from the time of injury. If you notice your child presents periventricular leukomalacia symptoms, don’t wait. Contact our birth injury lawyers for a free case review.