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25 Mar 2022

Clinical Negligence

Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month

This month is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, an important time to help raise awareness for the estimated 1,800 children who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy every year. In the UK, there are around 30,000 children living with the condition. Partner in our Clinical Negligence team, Emma Scourfield, explains how important it is to raise awareness for those with the lifelong and life-limiting condition.

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is the name for a group of lifelong conditions that are caused by a problem with the brain that develops before, during, or soon after birth, or in the first few years of life when the brain is still developing.

These conditions can affect movement and co-ordination, as well as causing tremors and weak muscles. People suffering from cerebral palsy can also have problems with sensation, vision, hearing, swallowing and talking.

Most children with cerebral palsy are born with the condition, but a small number have what is called acquired cerebral palsy, which means that the disorder begins more than 28 days after birth, and sometimes symptoms do not appear until the child is 2-3 years old.

What causes cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain. Usually, this happens before the child is born, but it is possible for CP to occur at birth or in the early infancy stage.

Causes can include:

  • Gene mutations
  • Maternal infections
  • Fetal stroke
  • Bleeding into the brain
  • Infant infections
  • Traumatic head injury
  • Lack of oxygen

In the majority of cases, the cause of the condition is outside of anyone’s control as around 70 per cent of children with cerebral palsy develop the condition while they are still in the womb.

Unfortunately, however, we do see a significant number of clinical negligence claims relating to the condition following complications or errors made during a mother’s antenatal care and/or the child’s birth or soon after delivery which result in severe oxygen deprivation to the baby’s brain or significant trauma to the head during the delivery.

Factors to be aware of

Unfortunately, delays in delivery –usually caused by prolonged labour or emergency operations taking precedence over planned caesarean sections – could mean that the baby is deprived of oxygen. This lack of oxygen can then lead to permanent damage to the brain.

Failure to diagnose and treat jaundice, meningitis and low blood sugar are all examples of medical errors that can result in a child having CP. Premature babies are most at risk when there is a failure to diagnose and treat kernicterus, a complication of neonatal jaundice which leads to brain damage.

After the delivery, cerebral palsy can be caused if the baby develops an infection, jaundice or meningitis or if a congenital disorder is not treated.

It’s important that mother and baby receive the correct care throughout the pregnancy and birthing process to help ensure harm is not suffered.

Have you been affected?

At Harding Evans, our supportive and professional clinical negligence team have significant experience in dealing with cases involving cerebral palsy. If your child has CP and you feel that inadequate care was provided during your prenatal care or delivery of your child , please contact us at hello@hevans.com or call 01633 244233.

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