Family Guide to Cerebral Palsy: Oregon Birth Injury Lawyers

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Understanding Cerebral Palsy from Our Oregon Birth Injury Lawyers: Family Guide to Cerebral Palsy


There are many factors that go through the mind of new parents. Is my child healthy? Am I doing everything to nurture my child? When will my child achieve significant milestones such as walking, talking, or crawling? All of these are normal questions, but when the child fails to progress through milestones appropriately, more significant questions arise. Of the many potential issues children may struggle with, cerebral palsy is one of the more severe pathologies that may occur. Cerebral palsy is a broad pathology and may affect each child and their family differently.  This is why we have developed a family guide to cerebral palsy by our Oregon birth injury lawyers.


Our family guide to cerebral palsy is made to help answer the common questions surrounding this possibly debilitating diagnosis. This guide is designed to give an overview of cerebral palsy and to answer common questions regarding causes, types, prevalence, treatment, complications and how it will affect the future of the child and family. This guide is not expected to replace medical advice from a doctor. If you suspect there is something wrong with your child, seek the advice of a doctor who can appropriately evaluate the child—do not rely on this guide to diagnose your child.


What is Cerebral Palsy?


To understand cerebral palsy, it is important to know what it is and how it happens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines cerebral palsy as the following:


Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. Cerebral means having to do with the brain. Palsy means weakness or problems with using the muscles. CP is caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain that affects a person’s ability to control his or her muscles.


This damage is most often permanent and can manifest itself immediately, days after birth, or may go undiagnosed for months or years. Children with cerebral palsy often show difficulty with movement and posture that healthy children can perform easily. Cerebral palsy can also affect cognition and intelligence depending on how severe the pathology is.


Prevalence of Cerebral Palsy


Around the world, much research has been done regarding cerebral palsy. Based on worldwide data, it is suggested that children with cerebral palsy account for 1.5 to more than 4 per 1000 live births. In the United States, that number has been determined to be anywhere from 3.1 to 3.6 per 1,000 live births.


There has also been research done into how these children function, specifically when it comes to walking. One study looking at 8 year old children with cerebral palsy found that 30% had severely limited or no walking ability while 58% were able to walk independently. Other studies have shown that children with cerebral palsy are often diagnosed with epilepsy and a lesser amount diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.


Causes of Cerebral Palsy


There are many factors which can lead to cerebral palsy, usually, but not always, a lack of oxygen to the brain is the primary cause. The majority of cerebral palsy cases happen prior to birth and are deemed as congenital cerebral palsy. If it happens after birth it is called acquired cerebral palsy.


While a specific cause of congenital cerebral palsy remains unclear, there have been certain risk factors that have been identified. They include:


  • Low birthweight- A higher risk exists for children who are born less than 5.5 pounds and especially for those who weigh less than 3 pounds 5 ounces at birth.
  • Premature birth – A child born before week 37 of pregnancy is at high risk while a child born before 32 weeks is at greater risk of having cerebral palsy.
  • Multiple births – Giving birth to twins, triplets, or other multiple births has shown to be a risk factor especially if one baby dies before or shortly after birth.
  • Assisted reproductive technology infertility treatments – These types of pregnancies have a higher risk of premature birth or multiple births which are as stated above are risk factors for developed cerebral palsy.
  • Infection during pregnancy – Infections may lead to inflammation and brain damage to the unborn child. Viruses such as chickenpox, rubella, and cytomegalovirus as well as bacterial infections of the placenta or fetal membranes have been linked to cerebral palsy.
  • Jaundice and kernicterus – Jaundice is a condition when a chemical called bilirubin builds up in the baby’s blood. Severe or untreated jaundice causes kernicterus which can cause cerebral palsy as well as other conditions.
  • Mothers with pre-existing conditions such as thyroid issues, intellectual disability, or seizures are at risk of having a child with cerebral palsy
  • Birth complications including detachment of the placenta, problems with the umbilical cord disrupting blood supply to the baby, an uterine rupture can lead to cerebral palsy.


Acquired cerebral palsy happens when brain damage occurs 28 days after birth. This type of cerebral palsy is usually related to some type of trauma to the head (such as a car accident or child abuse), infections of the brain (such as meningitis or encephalitis), and problems with blood supply to the brain (such as stroke or bleeding in the brain which may be associated with sickle cell disease, heart defects, improperly formed blood vessels, or abnormal blood clotting).


Oregon Medical Malpractice Causing Cerebral Palsy

While some of the exact causes of cerebral palsy remain unclear, there are specific factors relating to medical malpractice that occur before, during, or after birth that can cause cerebral palsy. Some examples of these factors where cerebral palsy was caused by Oregon medical malpractice include:


  • Failure to prescribe necessary prenatal vitamins based on the mother’s health
  • Failure to detect or treat an infection
  • Improper use of delivery tools
  • Failure to perform a timely c-section
  • Failure to detect a prolapsed umbilical cord
  • Failure to secure an airway
  • Delays to performing resuscitation efforts
  • Excessive contractions
  • Pitocin overdoses


Any of these can lead to serious injury and lifelong complications for the child and may be classified as medical malpractice. Our Oregon medical malpractice lawyers have extensive knowledge of this specialized area and can assist in determining if malpractice occurred.


Types of Cerebral Palsy


Cerebral palsy is classified based on the type of movement patterns demonstrated by the child. Usually, doctors examine for spasticity, dyskinesia, and ataxia. Spasticity refers to stiff or tight muscles that can make normal movement patterns difficult. Dyskinesia refers to involuntary muscle contractions and movements. Ataxia refers to difficulty with coordinating movements and results in poor balance. These terms are then used to categorize cerebral palsy into four major categories including:


  • Spastic cerebral palsy
  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy
  • Mixed cerebral palsy


Our family guide for cerebral palsy is used to help identify these types of cerebral palsy.  We will release additional types of cerebral palsy guides on each of the specific types in the future.  Here are some of the important points of the different types:


Spastic Cerebral Palsy


Spastic cerebral palsy accounts for the majority of cases of cerebral palsy and can be further divided into three subcategories based on the what body parts are affected. When only the child’s legs are affected, it is referred to as spastic diplegia. Children with this condition usually have much difficulty walking due to the tightness in the muscles of their legs. This tightness, or spasticity, can change with time but is usually present in one form or another. These children usually walk with a specific gait pattern referred to as scissoring gait because of how their legs are pulled inwards and often cross each other during the gait pattern. 


When only one side of the body is affected, it is referred to as spastic hemiplegia. This can affect the right arm and leg or left arm and leg but usually affects the arm more so than the leg. Children with this type of cerebral palsy usually have difficulty using their affected arm for activities of daily living such as feeding, playing, writing, and dressing. 


The last subcategory and most severe is spastic quadriplegia. This affects both arms and legs as well as the trunk and face. Usually these children are confined to a wheelchair and have intellectual disabilities. These children require the most care and attention to perform even the most simple activities such as feeding and dressing. 


Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy


Dyskinetic cerebral palsy affects the way the child can move their arms, legs, hands, and feet. The levels of muscle tone may change throughout the day from flaccid (limp or low muscle tone) to spastic (high muscle tone, similar to spastic cerebral palsy). Children with dyskinetic cerebral palsy have uncontrollable movements which are often described as writhing, rapid, or jerky. They have difficulty with basic activities like eating, drinking, and talking.


Ataxic Cerebral Palsy


Ataxic cerebral palsy is another form of cerebral palsy. This usually occurs when a part of the brain called the cerebellum is damaged. The cerebellum is responsible for regulating movement signals from all areas of the nervous system to produce smooth fluid movements. When it is damaged, the result is difficulty with controlling movements such as writing or reaching for objects as well as walking, running, and balance.


Mixed Cerebral Palsy


The last type of cerebral palsy is referred to as mixed cerebral palsy because some children may exhibit characteristics of more than one type of cerebral palsy and therefore do not fall into a specific category. Children may be classified as having 2 or 3 types of cerebral palsy depending on their presentation with the most common being called spastic-dyskinetic cerebral palsy where children show signs of both spastic cerebral palsy and dyskinetic cerebral palsy.


Treatment for Cerebral Palsy


Treatment for cerebral palsy is usually aimed at restoring function of the affected limbs to regain as normal use as possible. Certain medications, such as baclofen, are available which can decrease the spasticity of the muscles thus making movement easier. Usually, children are treated with a combination of medication to control spasticity (if it’s problematic) combined with rehabilitative therapies to achieve the optimal result. For children who have severe symptoms there are surgeries which can help mitigate symptoms. Implantable baclofen pumps may be surgically inserted into the child’s body to provide a constant drip of medications to control spasticity. In some cases, muscle and tendon lengthening procedures may be performed to restore normal length of tight or spastic muscles. These surgeries can be painful and emotional for the child as well as the family.


Much of the treatment revolves around rehabilitative therapies such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. The goal of physical and occupational therapy is to improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion which will allow the child to move with normal movement patterns, while speech therapy is aimed at treating any speech pathologies that may be present either due to poor muscle control of the facial muscles or developmental delay which may accompany cerebral palsy. 


Children usually begin these therapies very early in their life. It begins as soon after birth as needed and continues throughout their childhood, even through their adult years if necessary. Families are expected to take an active role in the child’s therapy and to perform exercises and stretches on a daily basis. There are many school based resources that are available for children with cerebral palsy. Some children may be able to attend mainstream schools while others will attend specialized schools for children with pathologies such as cerebral palsy, autism, and Down syndrome.  Use this family guide to cerebral palsy to help identify future resources you may need.


Complications and Implications of Living with Cerebral Palsy


After the initial shock of hearing that your child has cerebral palsy wears off, you may begin to think about the long term effects will be on the child’s life as well as your own. According to the CDC the lifetime costs of caring for a child with cerebral palsy is over $1.3 million. A child with cerebral palsy will require numerous trips to the doctors office to monitor his or her progress, especially during the early years following diagnosis. 


The child will also need specialized equipment depending on the severity of symptoms. Equipment needs range from relatively inexpensive items such as foot and ankle braces, hand braces, and walkers to very expensive items such as power wheelchairs and home modifications (such as widening doors, installing chair lifts of staircases, installing ramps to access the house, obtaining wheelchair adapted cars, etc.).


These costs alone can run into the tens of thousands and may lead to significant financial hardship. The child will also need a range of physical, occupational, and speech therapy and may not be able to attend public school due to the severity of their condition. Lastly, the emotional toll taken on the parents, family, and other caregivers cannot be understated. Much friction and stress can occur within a family due to the emotional and financial strains placed on them by caring for a child with cerebral palsy. 


Frequently Asked Questions


1) How long do I have to file a medical malpractice claim in Oregon?


Two years from the date the medical malpractice was first discovered or when the medical malpractice was first discovered.  However, there can be no cases filed after five years, however.  This means that a medical malpractice case could be discovered in year four and filed at that time, but a victim would not be able to wait for two years afterwards to file the claim (that would be 6 years).


2) Are there extensions to file a medical malpractice claim for cerebral palsy in Oregon?


Yes, the discovery rule is the first part where a victim may file a claim within two years of the claim being discovered up to five years from the negligence.  However, there is another extension if the defendant-healthcare provider hides the medical malpractice due to fraud or deceit.  If that occurs, a victim may commence a claim outside the five-year deadline and must feel a claim within two years of discovered the negligence hidden by fraud.  There may be extensions for individuals who are minors or incapacitated by medical malpractice.


3) How much does it cost for an Oregon birth injury lawyer for cerebral palsy?


Here at Kuhlman Law, we do not charge upfront.  We cover the initial costs for filing in court, obtaining your medical records, and working with experts to prove liability or your damages.  We will work hard to fight for your rights and try to justly settle your matter.  However, if the defendant or insurance company will not pay a just and fair amount, we are prepared to go into a courtroom to fight for your rights.  You will only have to pay us a percentage once we recover money in a settlement or a court award.


Need More Information About the Family Guide to Cerebral Palsy?  Ask Us in a Free Consultation if Your Loved One Has Cerebral Palsy


If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice contact the Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Kuhlman Law at our number below or fill out the intake form.  We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover. 


Our law firm handles cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Central Oregon, Sisters, Madras, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, La Grande, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Pendleton,  Cottage Grove, Florence, Oregon City, Springfield, Keizer, Grants Pass, McMinnville, Tualatin, West Linn, Forest Grove, Wilsonville, Newberg, Roseburg, Lake Oswego, Klamath Falls, Happy Valley, Tigard, Ashland, Milwakie, Coos Bay, The Dalles,  St. Helens, Sherwood, Central Point, Canby, Troutdale, Hermiston, Silverton, Hood River, Newport, Prineville, Astoria, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Hillsboro, and Vancouver, Washington.  


We also have an office in Minneapolis, Minnesota and take medical malpractice cases throughout the Twin Cities, including St. Paul, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County, Washington County, Anoka County, Scott County, Blaine, Stillwater, and Saint Paul Minnesota.  


Please act quickly, there is a limited time (Statute of Limitations) in which you can bring a claim under the law.

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