Dallas Birth Injury and Brain Damage Attorneys
Approximately seven of every 1,000 babies born in the U.S. suffer an injury during the birth process, and most of those injuries are relatively minor. However, if a delivery is difficult or complicated by the presence of risk factors, then birth injuries can be very serious.
As parents, we depend on our physicians and other medical professionals to be able to handle the complications that occur during labor and delivery. Fortunately, most doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals can and do respond to emergency situations and complications during labor very quickly to prevent a Dallas birth injury.
However, sometimes doctors and other medical professionals do not act in time to prevent a serious injury. Perhaps they didn’t notice the signs of stress on the infant. Perhaps they didn’t anticipate the problems and respond quickly enough. Perhaps they were negligent.
If your child was injured during the birth process and you suspect medical negligence, it is important to understand what occurred, the challenges your family now faces, and what you can do to handle those challenges.
Understanding Causes of Brain Damage in Infants
Some infants suffer from brain damage due to genetic mutations and other physical issues affecting their development while still fetuses. Often medical personnel and the parents are aware of these issues and somewhat prepared for the outcome following delivery. Brain damage due to a Dallas birth injury is different. It’s usually unexpected and devastating.
During the birth process or soon after delivery, an infant’s brain can be injured due to oxygen deprivation, a trauma to the head, or an infection.
If deprived of oxygen during a difficult delivery or because of complications with the umbilical cord, changes in the mother’s blood pressure, or other circulatory problems, an infant’s life and well-being are threatened. The lack of oxygen leads to neonatal asphyxia, a condition that causes an estimated 4 million deaths worldwide each year. The infants who survive can suffer severe brain damage affecting their physical and mental development as well as their cognitive abilities and motor skills.
Damaging head trauma can occur during the birth process, particularly in the case of premature babies and births with other complications. Head injuries can also occur due to negligence or error when procedures such as vacuum extraction or forceps delivery are done incorrectly.
If the mother has untreated infections, such as herpes, syphilis, cystitis, a kidney infection, or a yeast infection, she can pass that infection to the fetus. In the fetus, the infection can become very serious, leading to problems, including possible brain damage.
Signs and Symptoms of Brain Damage
Newborns suffering from extensive brain damage exhibit noticeable symptoms shortly after birth. Symptoms such as organ dysfunction, seizures, and muscular weakness can all be apparent.
Depending on the extent and location of the damage, other newborns will show signs of brain damage at later stages of development.
An infant with brain damage may have noticeable physical abnormalities, such as a small head, deformed facial features, or inability to focus her eyes.
Noticeable changes in behavior that occur for no known reason are also cause for concern. Extreme fussiness, excessive crying, decreased consciousness, and inability to eat are all signs of possible brain damage.
Less noticeable but still alarming are developmental delays. An infant suffering from brain damage might miss important developmental milestones, such as smiling, holding his head up, or crawling by an appropriate age. He might also not be gaining weight or growing normally.
Prognosis and Treatment for Newborn Brain Damage
The prognosis and appropriate treatment for newborn brain damage depends on the nature and extent of the damage. However, in all cases, early diagnosis and prompt treatment provide the best chance for survival and managing the effects of the damage on the infant’s physical and mental development.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) gives doctors insight into the areas of the brain affected so they can diagnose conditions accurately and provide appropriate treatment. Since damage from oxygen deprivation can progress after birth, infants with suspected brain damage should be carefully monitored to control seizures, maintain normal blood glucose and blood pressure, and minimize cerebral edema.
Other more extensive measures should be taken, if warranted. A growing body of evidence suggests that, if begun within six hours of birth, hypothermia treatment (moderate cooling of the brain) can actually reduce the risk of death and decrease the chances of the infant developing a long-term neurodevelopmental disorder. Cooling the infant with an ice cap or ice blanket slows down the functioning of the cells, giving doctors more time to restore oxygen to a normal level and stop further deterioration in the brain.
Medications can also help control symptoms, depending on the severity of the condition, but there really is no effective pharmacological treatment for brain damage in newborns. Typically, a treatment plan involves helping the child adapt to the symptoms caused by the brain damage. A combination of physical, occupational, and speech therapies are generally used to treat children with cerebral palsy and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
Handling the Challenges of Caring for a Child with Brain Damage
If your newborn suffered brain damage during or immediately following birth, you probably don’t know what lies ahead. You can’t predict how your child will develop or how you and your family will handle the many challenges of caring for him or her. What you probably do realize is that you’re going to need help – the help of medical professionals, support from friends and family, and help with financial resources.
If your child’s brain damage occurred because a doctor or other healthcare provider was negligent in diagnosing a problem, monitoring the baby during or after birth, or taking appropriate action during the birth process, then you’ll also need the help of an experienced birth injury lawyer.
If you suspect that your newborn’s brain damage was caused by medical negligence, you should speak with a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. At Chaiken & Chaiken, P.C., we empathize with you and understand the challenges you face. We want to help you obtain justice and recover compensation for your child’s suffering, care and treatment.
Ballot, D.E. Cooling for newborns with hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy: RHL commentary (last revised: 1 October 2010). The WHO Reproductive Health Library; Geneva: World Health Organization. http://apps.who.int/rhl/newborn/cd003311_ballotde_com/en/
Fatemi, A., Wilson, M. A., & Johnston, M. V. (2009). Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy in the Term Infant. Clinics in Perinatology, 36(4), 835–vii. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.clp.2009.07.011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2849741/
Paul and Perkins PA. (2016). Birth injury support. http://birthinjurysupport.com/
Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Foundation. (2016). Birth Asphyxia. http://www.seattlechildrens.org/medical-conditions/airway/birth-asphyxia/