What causes cerebral palsy?

Parents of children with cerebral palsy in Maryland know it can be a devastating condition leading to lifelong disability. The term "cerebral palsy" actually refers to a number of different conditions that affect an infant's muscle tone, coordination and brain function. It is often the result of brain injury or lack of oxygen to the brain during delivery. It can also be caused by brain injury to the baby before or after delivery.

Symptoms of cerebral palsy may not be apparent for some time after delivery. A baby with cerebral palsy may be slow in developing the ability to roll over, smile, crawl and talk. Other symptoms include: hearing or vision problems; involuntary movements; poor coordination; abnormal posture; a lack of muscle tone which can manifest itself in floppy or rigid limbs; and difficulty walking. Some patients may be unable to walk at all. Some, but not all, may have intellectual disabilities.

Patients with cerebral palsy usually need lifelong medical care. Physical therapy can help patients improve their strength and physical skills. Occupational and speech therapy can also be helpful. In some cases surgery can help restore limbs to their proper position, and splints or braces can be fitted to help the patient walk or to stretch rigid muscles.

In some cases, cerebral palsy is the result of medical malpractice. If the obstetrician fails to promptly recognize a lack of oxygen to the brain, or waits too long to perform a c-section or take other emergency steps to restore oxygen to the brain, those failures may constitute malpractice.

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