Cerebral Palsy – what do we know about the causes?

20 June 2017

A diagnosis of cerebral palsy (CP) is usually only made after a doctor has carried out a range of specialised tests with a team of health professionals.  These professionals may include neurologists, paediatricians, genetic specialists and a host of others. 

The most common symptoms of CP are slow development, abnormal muscle tone and postural abnormalities which may include low muscle tone (hypotonia) or high muscle tone (hypertonia).  There is no one cause to cerebral palsy but research has shown that in most cases, about 70%, the causes can be traced to the period before birth (the prenatal period).

About 20% of cerebral palsy cases occur during the birthing process (perinatally).  These will include a situation where the baby’s brain is injured because there has been lack of oxygen during delivery.  This is otherwise known as hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy.  Within this 20% of cases are also babies who acquire cerebral palsy as a result of being delivered prematurely. 

The further 10% of cases are post-birth and can arise from traumatic injury or infections during the early years of life.  Examples of this cause would be bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis. 

Unfortunately, in many cases the cause of a particular child’s cerebral palsy cannot be determined.  Where there is hypoxic brain injury there are often markers in the baby’s condition at birth and subsequent brain imaging which enable the likely cause of the cerebral palsy to be known.

In the relatively rare circumstances where the cerebral palsy was avoidable it is always worth investigating the potential for a legal claim because cerebral palsy can give rise to a wide spectrum of problems ranging from severe movement difficulties and postural problems to relatively mild brain injury.  Almost all of these conditions are easier to cope with if a family have access to funds allocated to the child specifically awarded to deal with the problems of the condition.

An award of damages can provide a degree of certainty in an otherwise uncertain situation.

For more information on the circumstances in which a claim may be worth investigating  see Bridget Hughes’  blog “Cerebral Palsy – What are the Triggers for Investigating a Clinical Negligence Claim?”. 

If your child has been affected by cerebral palsy and you would like to understand better whether it may have been caused as a result of an avoidable medical accident, one of our team would be pleased to help.  We have many very experienced lawyers who have dealt with all types of cases relating to cerebral palsy, for example oxygen deprivation at birth, inappropriate treatment following premature birth, post delivery delays and misdiagnosis and mismanagement of critical care all of which resulted in damage.  The team have, over the years, secured a number of extremely high awards, some being the highest ever awarded at that point in time.

If you or someone you care about has been affected by cerebral palsy and you would like to establish if a claim may be possible please contact the team on 020 7814 1200 or email enquiries@kingsleynapley.co.uk

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