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What is cerebral palsy?

This blog has discussed several different birth injuries in the previous four posts as part of a five-part series on birth injuries. The previous posts discussed excessive jaundice in newborns, brachial plexus injuries, brachial palsy, shoulder dystocia, Erb's palsy and gestational diabetes. The final post in this series will discuss cerebral palsy and cerebral hypoxia.

Cerebral palsy is not one disorder, but a group of disorders affecting the brain and nervous system. Symptoms can range in type and can also range from mild to severe. There is no cure for cerebral palsy and it can result in debilitating disabilities a patient and his or her caregivers will cope with for life. Treatments are intensive and aim to help a patient develop as much independence as possible.

Symptoms can include problems with movement and with excessive tightness in muscles or joints or paralysis in muscles. There can be an unsteady gait, loss of coordination or tremors. People with cerebral palsy may have learning disabilities, but not always.

There can also be speech and hearing problems, chronic pain and seizures. There can also be chronic problems with eating and digestion. Caregivers of people with cerebral palsy are at risk of burnout and stress.

There is no definitive cause of cerebral palsy. It can be caused by premature birth, excessive jaundice or a birth injury. Sometimes its cause can be traced to medical errors made during pregnancy, during birth or in the medical care of a newborn. Cerebral palsy can be caused by cerebral hypoxia, which occurs if the baby's brain experiences a lack of oxygen during birth.

A qualified attorney may be able to determine whether a child's cerebral palsy may have been caused by a birth injury that occurred due to a medical error or negligence.

Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine, PubMed Health, "Cerebral palsy," September 16, 2009

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