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Cerebral Palsy and Brain Damage

Most people who have cerebral palsy (CP) are born with it. No matter the cause of brain damage resulting in cerebral palsy, whether from maternal infection or fever, fetal injury, or some insult to the fetal brain in the period just before, during or after birth, researchers have found that four main types of congenital brain damage can result in cerebral palsy. These include:

  • Damage to the brain's white matter, called periventricular leukomalacia. The white matter sends signals inside the brain and to the rest of the body. In the case of cerebral palsy, tiny holes form in the white matter, interfering with this transmission of signals. Maternal and fetal infections can cause this type of damage.
  • Cerebral dysgenesis or abnormal brain development. When the fetal brain is growing, any disruption in this process can cause abnormalities. The causes of such cerebral dysgenesis, especially during the fetus' first 20 weeks, may include genetic problems and/or other problems in the womb including infections, fever, or trauma.
  • Intracranial hemorrhage or bleeding in the brain leading to fetal stroke. This is caused by blocked or broken blood vessels. Fetal stroke can result from blood clots in the placenta, poorly formed or weak blood vessels, or maternal high blood pressure or infection.
  • Intrapartum asphyxia or inadequate oxygen in the fetal brain because of the stress of labor and delivery. The fetus or newborn can go for short periods of time without enough oxygen, having the ability to compensate for this deficiency. But when the asphyxia is too long, the cells in the motor-controlling areas as well as other areas of the brain begin to die. This kind of damage can result from extremely high maternal blood pressure, rupture of the uterus, detachment of the placenta, or umbilical cord problems.

Cerebral Palsy and Neurological Symptoms

In children with cerebral palsy, the motor (controlling movement) areas of the brain are damaged. These motor problems are among the earliest signs that the infant or child has neurological (pertaining to the brain and nerves) damage.

This damage results in some of the characteristic movement abnormalities seen in infants and children with cerebral palsy, including poor muscle coordination and tone, abnormal movements of the arms and legs, abnormal gait, exaggerated reflexes, toe walking, and walking with one foot or leg dragging.

Cerebral Palsy MRI Scans

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are superior for seeing abnormalities in the brains of children when compared to CT (computed tomography) scans. They can help the physician and radiologist see the brains of the young infant as well as the fetus. If the brain is elongated or bleeding, these can be early signs of CP. They can help the diagnostician rule out CP as well.

In the slightly older child, use of MRI scans offers a way to see damage to the cortical or white matter in the brain. These scans can diagnose a child's hydrocephaly, a condition that can lead to cerebral palsy.

MRI scans also can be valuable for seeing muscles or the spinal cord in the older child to check for damage associated with cerebral palsy.

Cerebral Palsy Effects on Education and Learning

Problems with movement can affect the child's ability to write, but special tools and devices can be very helpful. Some children who have cerebral palsy also are mentally retarded and have a more difficult time with education and learning. In addition, the way a child appears and moves can make developing friendships difficult for these children. Educators and social works, therapists and psychologists are there to support the child with CP.

Many support groups and the Internet also are available to the older child, teen and adult to connect with others facing similar problems.

For more information about a possible legal claim, contact our cerebral palsy attorneys today to schedule a free case evalation.