Cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects the brain and causes motor deficiency. Cerebral refers to the part of the body affected, and palsy refers to paralysis, as there is an area of the brain that’s dormant or paralysed, which leads to either partial or complete muscle paralysis.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
The brain damage usually happens before, during, or shortly after birth and can end up being a lifetime disability for the affected child.
Sometimes cerebral palsy is a term that includes a number of different movement-and-brain-related disabilities, but generally there are three kinds of cerebral palsy: spastic cerebral palsy, Athetoid cerebral palsy, and ataxic cerebral palsy. Spastic cerebral palsy includes stiffness and a problem moving limbs.
Athetoid cerebral palsy involves involuntary, uncontrolled, and sometimes abnormal movements. Ataxic cerebral palsy includes problems with a sense of balance, depth-perception, or walking.
What Kind of Tests Can Confirm Cerebral Palsy?
Tests that confirm cerebral palsy include blood tests, a cranial ultrasound that can help the doctors see an image of the brain tissue, an MRI that allows physicians to see resonance and density in relation to the brain tissue, and a CT scan, which is an in-depth, 3D scan of the baby’s brain.
Cognitive assessments and medical observations are also used to help confirm cerebral palsy. Additionally, evaluations of the child’s mobility, speech and language, hearing, vision, gait, and feeding and digestion are utilized to determine the disorder.
Keep in mind, however, that a cerebral palsy diagnosis takes time, sometimes up to several years after a brain injury takes place. Furthermore, there isn’t a single test that can completely confirm or completely exclude cerebral palsy. Instead, a combination of a series of tests, observations, assessments, and evaluations are used to help diagnose the disorder.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is marked by spastic movements, a lack of muscle control, sometimes the inability to use muscles, and is often determined by abnormal, slow, writhing movements that the child cannot control. Additionally, muscle tone varies between floppy and stiff, which also could result in the use of some muscles over others. Other signs that your child may have cerebral palsy includes missing developmental milestones and/or intellectual disabilities.
Some of the clinical signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy include:
- Muscle Tone: As previously mentioned, a person with cerebral palsy has lack of muscle control. This in turn may make what seems like simple tasks extremely difficult. For example, sitting down, walking, tying shoes, and grasping objects may prove to be exhausting and hard for those with cerebral palsy.
- Reflexes: People with cerebral palsy may have abnormal reflex responses such as asymmetrical or symmetrical tonic reflex, palmer grasp reflex, and spinal gallant reflexes. Moro reflexes may be present in some infants, but generally clear up with 5 months of age.
- Coordination and Control: Both coordination and control is limited with those who have cerebral palsy, and it usually more pronounced when stressed or overwhelmed. Common issues with coordination and control include spastic movements, walking with a wide gait, walking with toes pointed inward or outward, dragging one leg while walking, and waddling when walking.
- Oral Motor Problems: Many people with cerebral palsy will experience difficulties with communication because of the spastic movements of face muscles. This also can affect breathing, eating, closing the mouth, and swallowing.
Can Cerebral Palsy Cause Other Disabilities?
Since cerebral palsy is a brain injury, other areas of the brain can be affected. Some children with cerebral palsy have trouble with hearing, sight, and speech problems. Children may also have problems with bladder control and problems with muscles. Children with cerebral palsy should be regularly observed by an occupational therapist to prevent other problems.
Cerebral palsy often causes mental health issues in children afflicted by the disability. Many children with cerebral palsy have behavioral problems, even those with mild levels of physical limitations. Persons with CP-associated learning disabilities, chronic or severe pain, or epilepsy are more likely to develop psychological disorders that appear in early childhood and can last into their adult years. According to the Scientific World Journal, children with cerebral palsy often suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, worry, conduct problems such as temper tantrums and disobedience, and socialization problems such as preferring to be with adults instead of peers and deep feelings of loneliness.
In addition, some children with cerebral palsy may have a tendency to overreact emotionally to new situations, especially challenging ones. Parents should consult with their child’s physician, who may recommend mental health screening to diagnose and treat mental health conditions as soon as possible.
Is There a Cure for Cerebral Palsy? What Treatments Are Available?
Currently there is no cure for cerebral palsy, but extensive research and studies are ongoing. In the meantime, there are a few procedures and treatments that can make your child more comfortable. Orthopaedic surgery can help diminish spastic movements, and physical therapy can help children attempt to control motor skills. Occupational therapy can help with daily living skills such as eating, tying shoes, social interaction, and learning to be more independent as time goes on.
In many instances, medication may be prescribed to help control the disabilities. There are a wide variety of medicines that help people with cerebral palsy. The most common types include:
- Antispastic medication, such as baclofen and valium
- Antidepressant medication, such as Lexapro and Paxil
- Anti-inflammatory medication, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids
- Stool softeners
- Anticonvulsant medication, such as gabapentin and topiramate
What Kind of Care is Involved with Cerebral Palsy?
Once a child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, the parents are typically introduced to a team of professionals who can help clearly explain what the child needs. This meeting will likely draw up what’s called a Life Care Plan. A Life Care Plan is an itemized list of needs that the child will have during certain time frames of his or her life, involving accommodations that need to be made in the home.
The plan may include a list of accessories that the child needs (such as wheelchairs, walkers, braces, etc.), the kinds of therapy the child needs and how often they should go, special educational accommodations that may include IEPs (Individualized Educational Plans), a 504 educational plan, and licensed in-home care. Parents are never expected to walk through caring for a child with cerebral palsy alone, which is why there is a tight network of medical staff and support groups available for help.
It’s also important to remember that children will more than likely live with cerebral palsy for a lifetime, and will continue to need several medical services and care even throughout adulthood. However, the extent of care they will need will depend upon the severity of the disorder. Children with mild forms of cerebral palsy may go on to obtain successful careers and maintain their own homes while others with severe cases of cerebral may need a permanent, full-time caregiver.
Can Cerebral Palsy Be Prevented?
In the case where the independent medical expert has established that medical negligence did occur, upon your instructions your legal team will commence the process of issuing legal proceedings in Court against the medical professional and/or hospital with a view to securing compensation for you either by way of Court Judgment, or settlement.
The person who has been injured as a result of negligence is called the ‘plaintiff’. The medical professional/hospital or other professional against whom the allegations are made is called the ‘Defendant’.
The process is as follows:
A letter of claim will be sent to the Defendant(s) setting out the allegations and injuries sustained by you. This letter invites the Defendant(s) to admit liability to you and to compensate you for the injuries sustained. If no meaningful response is received on foot of this correspondence, a personal injuries summons will be drafted by a barrister nominated by your legal team setting out the particulars of negligence and breach of duty, and particulars of the injuries sustained. The personal injuries summons will set out the reliefs claimed by the plaintiff, which will include compensation for pain and suffering (known as General Damages), compensation for additional losses suffered; for example any expenses incurred by you as a result of the injury such as medical expenses, loss of earnings, care costs needs etc. (Known as special Damages).
The personal injuries proceedings will be issued in Court and litigation will thereby be initiated.
Depending on the complexity of the particular case, the litigation process can oftentimes take a minimum of two years to reach Hearing before a Court. This does not mean to say that the Defendant(s) will not seek to settle a claim prior to the Hearing of the action. However, it can be a lengthy process and oftentimes involves a lengthy discovery process whereby medical records and other relevant documentation is exchanged between the parties, an element of the process known as ‘Discovery’.
Your legal team will advise you throughout the entire process, ensuring your best interests are met, and that you achieve the best outcome available in your particular case. The Irish Claims Board have legal experts who specialise in compensation for sufferers of Cerebral Palsy. You can obtain a free assessment of your case by one of these human experts here free of charge and without obligation.