When Negligence Leads to Infant Brain Trauma
Watching your newborn suffer is one of the most traumatic and frightening experiences a parent can go through. Learning that the suffering was caused by errors made during labor and delivery, and that it may have been entirely preventable, is even worse. Your child may eventually recover from brain trauma during delivery,, but you and your family most likely have a long road ahead, as these injuries can cause lifelong conditions that require ongoing treatments.
What are the causes of infant brain trauma and brain damage?
Infant brain trauma often results from too much pressure or force placed on your baby’s head. One of the most common ways that this happens is when the baby’s head becomes stuck during the birthing process. As a result, the doctor may need to use instruments or tools like vacuum extractors or forceps to help remove the baby. If the doctor uses too much pressure, it can lead to skull and brain trauma.
Unless adult skulls, which are fully fused together, newborns have “soft” spots (called fontanelles) where the bones aren’t fully fused. Not only do they allow for easier passage through the birth canal, but it also allows your baby’s head to grow. While fontanelles are safe to touch gently, they do create an opportunity for additional trauma directly to the brain if doctors are not careful, or if they act negligently. This is why tools like forceps and extractors must be used so carefully, and professionals must monitor what is happening while the tools are in use.
It is also possible for a newborn to sustain brain trauma because of carelessness. Babies are dropped during delivery. (The most recent data is from 2014, and it says between 600 and 1,600 reports are made each year. The numbers could be much higher, assuming not all drops are reported.)
Brain damage can also be caused by oxygen deprivation. Another common scenario that happens during labor and delivery is that the baby is not properly monitored, and they begin to lose oxygen as a result of prolonged labor, issues with the umbilical cord, or other life-threatening issues.
Can you tell if a baby is suffering brain trauma?
It can be difficult to determine if your baby has sustained brain trauma because they cannot communicate with you in words. In some cases, the symptoms may not be apparent for days, weeks, or even months. Some of the most common symptoms that you can look for include:
- Incessant crying, no matter what you do to soothe the baby
- Malformations in the skull
- Crooked or deformed spine
- Neck stiffness
- Unusual facial expressions or features
- Odd eye movements
- Arched back
- Loose muscles
- Visible injuries on the scalp
- Issues with swallowing or feeding
- Light sensitivity
If symptoms of brain trauma are not identified, diagnosed, and treated early, the condition could get worse as the child ages. For example, irritability and trouble sleeping can be the result of colic – but together with muscle spasms, paralysis in certain limbs or body parts, or delayed developments, they could be symptoms of brain trauma, or a condition like cerebral palsy.
The most common types of infant brain trauma
There are many different types of infant brain trauma. Each type comes with their own set of symptoms and can lead to life-altering disabilities. Here are a few of the most common types of infant brain trauma:
- Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy: This is possibly the most severe brain injury for infants. It is the result of the baby not getting enough blood or oxygen for a long amount of time. Depending on how long the baby went without oxygen, the damage may be mild or severe, or even fatal.
- Periventricular leukomalacia: PVL is an “injury to the white matter around the fluid-filled ventricles of the brain,” and its causes aren’t fully known. It can be the result of trauma during labor and delivery (like the rupturing of the amniotic sac, or because of medical negligence), and it can lead to developmental delays or nerve damage.
- Hydrocephalus: Hydrocephalus is a rare condition where there is a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, leading to pressure on the brain. When a baby has this type of injury, their head may appear large or swollen. This condition must be treated with surgery, or the newborn may sustain irreversible brain damage.
- Intraventricular hemorrhage: This is bleeding inside or near the hollow spaces of the infant’s brain. It is most common among premature infants.
- Newborn cephalohematoma: During a tough and stressful delivery, blood may begin to fill under the baby’s skull. This is called newborn cephalohematoma, and it is usually noticeable as the infant will have large bumps or sacs of fluid on the back of their head. Eventually, they may begin to look like bruises. They typically heal on their own unless they are severe.
How is a baby treated for brain trauma?
If you or your physician noticed your baby’s brain trauma quickly after birth, they most likely have begun medical treatments. The good news is that there are some children who experience brain trauma at birth and still end up living long, healthy lives. However, if the damage was too severe, or injury was diagnosed and addressed quickly enough, the child’s overall quality of life may be diminished. The following are a few of the medical treatments that your doctor may recommend for your baby:
- Therapeutic hypothermia
- Assistive devices
- Special equipment
- Mobility aids
- Therapy and rehabilitation
A doctor will assess your infant’s condition and create a medical plan specifically tailored to their needs as all infant’s circumstances and needs are different.
How can a Charlotte birth injury lawyer help?
The Charlotte birth injury attorneys of Price, Petho & Associates know that you will do everything you can to help your child. Working with one of us can be an important step in that process. We know how to identify acts of negligence during labor, delivery, and birth, and we know how to determine who is liable for those acts. Birth injuries, especially ones involving the brain, can be long-lasting and prohibitively expensive. We don’t believe you should have to shoulder that burden and all its uncertainty alone.
We will look over the facts of your case and fight for fair compensation to help you cover your child’s medical expenses. Some of the evidence we may use to prove a birth injury are:
- Medical reports and records
- Witness statements
- Doctor or expert testimonies
We can help determine whether the doctors are fully responsible, or if hospital policies played a role in your child’s injury. We work with financial experts and life care planners to show juries the full scope of your child’s injuries, as well as what will be needed to ensure they have the best care for the rest of their lives.
The team at Price, Petho & Associates knows that parents dream of the lives they can give their children; no one wants to be in a position where they need a Charlotte birth injury lawyer. But if your baby sustained irreparable harm, we are here to help. Our birth injury lawyers are very sympathetic and compassionate when it comes to these types of cases, and we will fight for the compensation your child deserves. Call our office or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout North Carolina, and maintain offices in Rockingham, Charlotte, and Rutherfordton.