Cerebral palsy, what it is and how your family may be affected

Cerebral palsy affects an estimated one in every 400 babies born in the UK and may be caused by damage to the brain which occurs before, during or just after birth.

The term CP describes a group of conditions affecting an individual’s movement and co-ordination with every individual affected in a different way, and to varying degrees.

There are four main types of cerebral palsy:

Spastic CP – this can affect an arm, hand and leg on one side of the body or muscle stiffness mainly affecting both legs with arms affected to a lesser degree or, the most severe type of cerebral palsy, spastic quadriplegia which is a result of widespread, catastrophic brain injury.

Dyskinetic CP – the affected individual will suffer with slow and uncontrolled writhing or jerky movements of their hands, feet, arms and legs.

Ataxic CP – this type of cerebral palsy affects balance and depth perception with symptoms presenting as poor co-ordination including walking unsteadily and with a wide-based gait.

Mixed type CP – this is when an individual may experience a mix of symptoms from the above.

What causes cerebral palsy before, during or just after birth?

Cerebral palsy can be caused by numerous incidents involving a serious injury to the brain. This includes significant insults affecting the brain before, during or just after birth. This may include in utero infection, bleeding from the placenta, oxygen deprivation, reduced blood to the brain or a physical trauma.

Both mother and baby should be carefully monitored throughout this period to ensure that timely medical intervention can be implemented where appropriate to minimise or prevent irreversible damage.

How do I know if my child has cerebral palsy?

It may not be obvious that a baby has suffered a serious injury leading to this lifelong condition as symptoms are usually not apparent until a child is aged two or three with a full diagnosis usually not given until the age of four or five.

The symptoms of cerebral palsy include the following:

–          Missing developmental milestones

–          Body is too stiff or too floppy

–          Weakness in the arms and / or legs

–          Fidgety or jerky movements or movement that regularly appears as clumsy

–          Random, uncontrolled movement

–          Walking on tiptoes

–          A range of other issues including vision, learning difficulties and hearing

The NHS has more information on cerebral palsy symptoms here.

Figures published by cerebral palsy charity PACE estimate that around 30,000 children are affected by CP in the UK with approximately 1,800 being diagnosed every year.

The charity has revealed the following statistics:

–          One third of children with CP are unable to walk

–          One quarter can’t feed or dress themselves

–          One in ten don’t have any useful vision with one in eleven completely blind

–          One in every 50 will be deaf

–          One quarter suffer with epileptic seizures

Coping with cerebral palsy

Living with cerebral palsy can be challenging for the whole family. Support is available to make life a little easier, to help ease the symptoms and help a child live as full a life as possible.

This includes different types of therapy including physio, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Sometimes medication can be prescribed to ease muscle symptoms and for some individuals, surgery may be appropriate to help treat problems with movement and growth.

What to do if you suspect that cerebral palsy was caused by medical negligence

If you believe that your child’s suspected, or diagnosed, cerebral palsy may have been due to medical negligence, they could be entitled to significant compensation. Our team of specialist medical and legal birth injury experts have a strong track record of securing £multi-million compensation settlements for families affected by cerebral palsy following medical negligence.

This can make a real difference covering the cost of carers, home adaptations, equipment and the therapies needed to help families live as full a life as possible while managing the challenges of cerebral palsy.

To see an example of a family represented by our team click here.

For a free consultation with Diane Rostron and our team of experts please contact us here.

Contact Diane Rostron

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