Cerebral palsy: What should Pennsylvania parents know?

The most common childhood motor disability, cerebral palsy has lifelong effects and may be caused by birth injuries.

The birth and early years of a child's life are an exciting time for Pennsylvania parents and families. That excitement may quickly turn to concern, however, as a number of conditions may unfortunately develop early in children's lives. One such condition, cerebral palsy is a group of motor disorders. Affecting their body movement and muscle coordination, those who suffer from cerebral palsy may require lifelong treatment and care.

Depending on the type of movement disorders children experience, cerebral palsy may be classified as one of four types - spastic, ataxic, dyskinesia or mixed. Spastic is characterized by spastic muscles, while those with the ataxic form of cerebral palsy experience balance and coordination disturbances. The dyskinesia classification presents with uncontrollable movements and mixed cerebral palsy involves the symptoms of two or more of the other forms.

What causes cerebral palsy?

Much remains for medical professionals and researchers to learn about cerebral palsy and its causes. Resulting from abnormalities during development of the brain or damage to the brain in the womb, during birth, or in the early years of a child's life when his or her brain is still developing, there are numerous factors that may contribute to the development of this disorder. These include multiple births, infections during pregnancy and certain maternal medical conditions.

Infants may also develop cerebral palsy due to birth injuries or doctor errors, such as oxygen deprivation resulting from delivery complications or a failure to order a timely cesarean section, neglecting to treat or delaying treatment of an infection, or the improper usage of forceps or a vacuum extractor. Medical professionals are charged with ensuring the mother and her baby's safety throughout the labor and delivery process.

What are the symptoms of cerebral palsy?

Presenting in infancy or during the early childhood years, cerebral palsy may cause a range of symptoms. Some of the most common signs of this condition include the following:

  • Involuntary movement or tremors
  • Favoring one side of the body
  • Issues sucking or eating
  • Feeling stiff or floppy

The effects and severity of symptoms that children may experience as a result of cerebral palsy vary based on factors, including the type of condition. While each child will develop at his or her own pace, not reaching certain milestones at the average ages may be an indication of a problem such as cerebral palsy.

How is cerebral palsy treated?

There unfortunately is no cure for cerebral palsy. Therefore, treatment of this condition is aimed at managing the associated symptoms. For example, those with cerebral palsy may require physical or occupational therapy to help improve and maintain their muscle function, as well as to teach them adaptive techniques for challenging tasks. Some with this disorder are prescribed medications to help treat its effects, and others need surgical intervention to reduce their pain or increase their mobility.

Pursuing financial compensation

Although it is labeled a childhood disorder, cerebral palsy and its associated symptoms are lifelong for people in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Consequently, those with this condition may require ongoing treatment and care. In cases when birth injuries or other medical negligence contributes to the development of cerebral palsy, the responsible health care providers may be held liable. Thus, parents of children with cerebral palsy may benefit from seeking legal counsel to discuss their rights and options.