Cerebral palsy

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a term that describes conditions that affect movement and coordination and is caused when there is damage to a baby’s brain during development in the womb, around the time of birth or shortly after birth.

Cerebral palsy isn’t obvious when a baby has just been born or when the brain damage occurs. It usually starts to show as the baby gets older, usually when a child is age 2 or 3. It tends to be noticed when a child starts missing developmental milestone, like not sitting or walking. A child may have stiff, floppy, jerky or uncontrolled movements, walk on tiptoes or they may have vision problems or difficulties swallowing.

What are the types of cerebral palsy?

There are 3 main types of cerebral palsy that can occur on their own or in combination (mixed cerebral palsy):

  1. Spastic cerebral palsy: this is where a child has stiff muscles – known as increased tone. It affects the range of movement and can be painful. Spastic cerebral palsy can affect different parts of the body but is usually seen in the limbs. It can affect one limb, or one side or both sides of the body.
  2. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy: when a child or person has dyskinetic cerebral palsy, they tend to make uncontrolled movements because the muscles contract involuntarily. It is sometimes called dystonic, athetoid or choreoathetoid cerebral palsy. People with this type of cerebral palsy can also have difficulties with speaking and language.
  3. Ataxic cerebral palsy: this presents as difficulty with balance and coordination. A child or person may walk with their feet wide apart or have repetitious movements and trouble picking up objects because their hands are shaky. In ataxic cerebral palsy, a person may have difficulties with speech and it can affect the hands, arms, legs, feet and eyes.

How has my child got cerebral palsy?

There are lots of reasons why a baby or child develops cerebral palsy:

  • a brain infection when they are in the womb or after they are born, such as meningitis
  • not getting enough oxygen during labour and delivery
  • a bleed in the brain
  • an injury to their head
  • a low sugar level (hypoglycaemia) or jaundice (hyperbilirubinemia)

Why would there be a possible clinical negligence claim?

The main reasons for clinical negligence cases for children with cerebral palsy arise because labour and delivery or care after birth were not managed properly. If there is a delay in delivery of a baby who is showing signs of distress in the womb, the baby could have been deprived of oxygen (hypoxia) which can cause permanent damage to their brain. Other errors that can cause brain damage to a baby might be not diagnosing or treating meningitis,

Clinical negligence in cerebral palsy claims usually arise when there has been:

  • Delay in delivering a baby when there are signs of stress which caused deprivation of oxygen
  • Poor management of brain infections
  • Incorrect treatment of jaundice or low blood sugar

Cerebral palsy is a potentially life-changing condition and children will often need support for their entire life. It is possible that your child will need specialist equipment, a wheelchair accessible home, a care team in place and specialist treatment from a physiotherapist, occupational therapist and speech therapy.

How can Davies & Partners help?

Our highly experienced team have helped many children and families to investigate the cause of cerebral palsy and claim compensation.

We will work with you and the best medical experts to investigate whether mistakes have been made and if they have caused cerebral palsy. If a claim is successful, we that there is compensation to ensure that a child’s needs can be met for the rest of their life.

If you would like to speak to one of our team about any concerns you may have about a birth injury, cerebral palsy or disability that may have been caused by errors in care , please contact us now to arrange a free initial discussion.

For more information on cerebral palsy and support that is available, there are a number of charities that can help.

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