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Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis

Diagnosing cerebral palsy (CP) is a time-consuming endeavor. Severe cases may be easier to diagnose early in the first six months. But more mild conditions may take months to years to accurately diagnose. This usually occurs when the child is between 3 and 5 years old, by which time enough symptoms have appeared and enough tests and consultations have been done to make a more definitive determination.

In addition, doctors do not want to make a hasty diagnosis or misdiagnosis. There is some concern that when not properly prepared, parents upon hearing that their child has cerebral palsy may be so fearful that they fail to bond with the baby. Strong bonding is important to help the child develop to their ultimate potential.

Misdiagnosis can lead to unnecessary procedure, surgeries, treatments and expense, and even cause more harm than good. On the other hand, diagnosis as early as possible is important to guide the child's development to his or her fullest potential.

Early physical therapy may help both the muscles and the brain, for example. The brain of the child is continuing to develop. In its developmental phase, the brain is "plastic" and can be influenced by the child's activities and treatments which may reduce the severity of symptoms.

Diagnosis as early as possible is also important for the parents to begin to seek financial assistance to deal with the child's problems. Diagnostic tests and treatments are expensive. A number of programs are available to help children with cerebral palsy, but to qualify for any assistance or reimbursement there must be a definitive diagnosis.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

Parents may notice the symptoms of cerebral palsy before the pediatrician does. They might become aware of a failure to reach developmental milestones when compared to children of their friends. Some early symptoms that a child might have cerebral palsy are delays in:

  • Holding up the head
  • Sitting up
  • Crawling
  • "Cruising"
  • Walking

Symptoms of possible CP include problems with:

  • Reflexes
  • Focus on parents and caregivers
  • Posture
  • Movement
  • Slow growth and weight gain

Tests often done for diagnosing or ruling out CP include:

  • Neuroimaging
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans

Other tests are done for:

  • Hearing
  • Vision
  • Perception
  • Cognition
  • Behavioral and physical development
  • Possible genetic origins

Specialists in all these disciplines become involved sometime between the child's second and fifth birthday. A definitive diagnosis usually is made by the time a child is 5 years old.

The Team Approach

Cerebral palsy is such a complex disorder involving physical, mental, emotional and social disabilities that a team approach is needed to treat the child, as well as the adult. It often is a comfort for parents to learn that a multidisciplinary team will be working with them and their child.

A large number of specialists may work to help the child throughout the years. Which specialists serve the child depends upon his or her current needs, which change as he or she grows older. Specialists that often work on the team include:

  • Audiologists
  • Behavioral and psychotherapists
  • Counselors and social workers
  • Dentists and orthodontists
  • Developmental pediatricians
  • Ear, nose and throat doctors
  • Neurologists
  • Nutritionists
  • Obstetrics/gynecologists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Ophthalmologists
  • Orthopedists or orthopedic surgeons
  • Orthotists
  • Pediatricians
  • Rehabilitation medicine specialists
  • Researchers
  • Speech and language pathologists
  • Urologists

Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis and Medical Negligence

Among the possible causes for cerebral palsy is medical negligence. During the labor and delivery process, if an infant fails to get enough oxygen, this oxygen deficit can impair the brain. A doctor's mistakes during this difficult time can cause an infant to be born with cerebral palsy and other birth injuries.

Examples of mistakes that can lead to birth injuries, include failing to detect fetal distress, failure to perform a C-section when the mother's canal is too narrow for the baby, or improper use of equipment. If your baby is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, there is a possibility that something went wrong during delivery.

To learn more, please contact our cerebral palsy lawyers today. We will conduct a free case evaluation to determine if we think you may have a claim. Call today to schedule an evaluation of your case.