It’s just about the most devastating diagnosis any parent can receive – your newborn has a brain injury, and there is no full cure. Thousands of babies are born with brain damage each year, many times due to medical malpractice. The diagnosis usually means your child will have physical problems and cognitive problems that will prevent him or her from having a normal life.
Brain damage at birth, according to the Birth Injury Guide, can occur in any part of the brain – but commonly occurs in the following three brain parts:
- The cerebral cortex. “The cerebrum is the uppermost part of the brain that makes up the two hemispheres or the ‘wrinkly’ part of the brain most often seen in illustrations. The hemispheres are connected by the corpus callosum.” The cerebrum affects your child’s emotions, senses, vision, memory, movement, judgment, and language.
- The cerebellum. This part of the brain, in the back of the brain, affects coordination, posture, balance, and some eye movements.
- The brainstem, in the middle of the brain, is responsible for breathing, coughing, sneezing, swallowing, heart function, and vomiting.
Often, this brain damage is often caused by oxygen deprivation. There are many reasons why oxygen deprivation can occur, which OB/GYNs, midwives, and doulas should anticipate and take steps to avoid. Oxygen deprivation – especially for significant amounts of time – can lead to several long-term problems, including:
- Cerebral palsy
- Developmental delays
- Cognitive delays
- Problems with fine motor skills
- Delayed or impaired speech
Per the Brain Injury Guide, “According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), disorders including ADD, ADHD, autism, learning disorders, and behavioral problems have a strong correlation with newborn brain injuries.”
Other causes of infant brain damage
Not all infant brain damage is caused by oxygen deprivation. A baby can sustain a life-altering brain injury or trauma from:
- Mistakes using forceps or vacuum extractors
- Untreated or misdiagnosed kernicterus
- Genetic malformations or defects
- Skull fractures
- Prolonged births
- Undiagnosed and/or untreated maternal infections
What are the treatments for infant brain damage?
Infant brain damage is usually diagnosed by observing the baby and through various tests such as CT scans and MRIs. An electroencephalogram (EEG) may be ordered, too.
Medications are often used to treat babies who have seizures, pain, infections, and swelling. Medications should be monitored to determine which ones work best. Some brain injury medications for newborns include:
- Anti-seizure medications. These medications help control seizures and spastic movements. Anti-seizure medications include phenytoin, benzodiazepines, and levetiracetam.
- Behavioral medications. These medications may be prescribed as your newborn ages and begins to exhibit hyperactivity, attention deficit disorders (ADD or ADHD), aggression, or other brain disorder symptoms. Behavioral medicines include bromocriptine and methylphenidate.
- These medications help your newborn increase the level of urination which helps reduce the level of fluid buildup – including fluid buildup near the brain. In acute settings, these drugs are administered intravenously. The most common diuretic for people with brain damage is Mannitol.
Some newborns need a great amount of help (for life, if the injury is severe enough) for walking, eating, standing, sitting, balance, and other daily tasks. Some of the therapies that may be useful include:
This treatment is very common. Patients are taught through training and exercises. Common exercises include:
- Flexibility workouts
- Exercises for balance
- Strength routines
- Activities to help your child sit and stand
Thermal treatments and electrical stimulation may be part of part physical therapy – along with joint mobilization activities.
The physical therapist you work with should be trained to help children with brain damage. “Ideally, you should also look for a physical therapist who is a Certified Brain Injury Specialist (CBIS).”
This type of therapy helps your child with tasks such as going to the bathroom by him or herself, feeding and swallowing, dressing him or herself, personal grooming, cognitive issues, and emotional issues. A common task is to help a child eat without the need for a feeding tube – by having the child engage in various activities.
Occupational therapy also includes:
- Neuro-musculoskeletal activities
- Rehabilitation for fine motor skills
- Sensory and perceptual processing
- Oral motor skills rehabilitation
Therapeutic hypothermia treatment
This treatment is known as cooling therapy. It “reduces an infant’s body temperature in order to stop brain damage and prevent additional brain damage. Cooling therapy has shown positive results if administered immediately after birth.” The aim of cooling therapy is to set the newborn’s temperature to around 89°F to 93°F or 32-34 C – for three days or more. “According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), cooling therapy not only increases an infant’s chance of survival but also decreases the chances of long-term permanent brain damage and physical impairment.”
Surgery may be used for children who suffer head trauma such as bleeding in the brain or skull – or if there are fractures of the skull. Surgery “can often repair the fractures, stop the bleeding and prevent more damage to the vessels.”
Can an attorney help me if my baby has a brain injury?
Potentially, yes. If your newborn’s brain injury was caused by an act of negligence, such as a missed diagnosis or a physical injury, then an Alabama birth injury lawyer may be able to help. Our team takes a special interest in representing families whose children suffered brain trauma and brain damage because we know what challenges the future can hold. Aside from the medical expenses and potential home renovations associated with limited mobility, we understand that the emotional pain and suffering is acute. To have a child who cannot say “I love you,” or hug you back, or care for him or herself – who can never lead the life you imagined he or she would lead – defies words. Our only goal is to help you care for your child for the rest of your lives.
At Mezrano Law Firm, our Alabama birth injury lawyers understand just how devastating a brain injury diagnosis for your baby is. We work fiercely to hold the medical providers who committed medical malpractice accountable for your child’s changed life. We work with your medical team to fully verify and document the medical care your newborn will need and how the brain injury will affect your newborn – for the rest of his/her life. We demand compensation for your child’s pain and suffering, change in lifestyle, medical bills, and other allowable damages. For compassionate strong help, call us at 205-206-6300 or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Mobile, Montgomery, Florence, or Gadsden.