How Do I Know If My Child Suffered A Birth Injury?
Recognizing Common Signs of Infant Brain Injuries
When a newborn suffers a traumatic brain injury, it can be difficult to notice the symptoms right away. Infants cannot tell you when something is wrong and, after the chaos and trauma of a difficult labor or delivery, many parents don’t realize right away that their child has been injured. However, early detection is crucial, as prompt medical treatment greatly improves the chances of your child’s partial or full recovery. Even if your child’s brain injury or resulting condition is not curable, recognizing the signs that he or she suffered a brain injury can help you begin building a case against the liable parties.
Some of the most common signs of infant brain injuries include:
- Abnormal head shape, including very large forehead
- Difficulty or inability to focus the eyes
- Deformed or abnormally shaped spine
- Excessive crying and/or high-pitched wailing
- Distorted or abnormal facial features
- Problems with feeding, sleeping, and/or lying down
- Very small head, especially in smaller infants
- Neck stiffness
- Developmental delays, including problems speaking
While certain symptoms (such as those listed above) are prevalent at or soon after birth, some signs of brain damage may not appear for months. Cognitive symptoms typically don’t appear until your child starts missing developmental milestones or exhibits signs of memory, attention, or concentration problems. Some physical symptoms, such as delays in talking, walking, running, or jumping may not appear for a number of years.
Later signs of infant brain injury may include:
- Inability or reduced ability to process information
- Trouble with memory and/or attention span
- Sleep disorders, including sleep apnea or narcolepsy
- Problems with vision or hearing
- Trouble with spatial orientation
- Extreme pain or light sensitivity
- Inability to process language, speak, or communicate
- Little or no impulse control
- Tremors or partial/complete paralysis
- Mobility delays, including inability to sit up, stand, or crawl
- Trouble grasping or holding things
- Inability to go up and down stairs
- Inability to get dressed without adult assistance
- Inability to eat without adult assistance
These are just some of the common signs of infant brain injury. If your child exhibits any other developmental delays or difficulties, it is wise to have a doctor or medical professional conduct an exam.
What to Do if You Suspect Your Child Suffered a Brain Injury
If you’ve noticed any signs that your child may have suffered a brain injury, the next step is to schedule an appointment with a medical professional for an official diagnosis. Doctors use several different methods to determine if a child has brain damage, as well as the extent and severity of the damage. Most often, doctors use CT (“cat”) head scans or MRIs to check for brain damage. Both CT scans and MRIs allow doctors to see inside the body and determine if an internal injury has occurred. They also allow doctors to map the damaged area and obtain a better understanding of how the injury is likely to affect your child’s growth and development. Typically, CT scans are only needed when a child has likely suffered serious head trauma. Because it is relatively more difficult to diagnose infant brain damage than older child or adult brain damage, infant CT head scans are generally only ordered when a child exhibits signs of severe head or brain injury.
In some cases, a doctor may order an EEG. This test tracks electrical activity and brain patterns to determine if there are any abnormalities. EEGs are most commonly used to diagnose certain brain disorders such as seizures, brain inflammation (encephalitis), encephalopathy (dysfunction-causing diseases), head injuries, and sleep disorders, amongst other problems. This test is painless and safe for your child.
Are Infant Brain Injuries Treatable?
The number one thing most parents want to know when their child is diagnosed with brain damage is whether or not their child can be cured or if the injury will alter his or her life forever. Thankfully, many infant brain injuries are mild and can be treated in a number of ways. In many cases, children are able to make a partial or complete recovery with the proper medical care. Even when injuries are moderate or severe, treatment is possible. Many children who suffer infant brain injuries are able to live a happy life.
Depending on numerous factors, including the extent and severity of the injury, common treatments for infant brain damage include:
- Hyperbaric oxygen treatment
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Anti-seizure medication
- Behavioral medication
- Ongoing rehabilitation
Of course, any brain injury, mild or severe, may result in lifelong consequences. You may still notice developmental delays, even after treatment, and your child may have to deal with certain aftereffects that affect his or her life. This is particularly true in more severe cases or in cases where brain injuries lead to other conditions, such as cerebral palsy.
What Can You Do if Your Child Suffered a Brain Injury during Birth?
Sadly, many cases of infant brain injury are a result of medical negligence. Nurses, doctors, and other medical practitioners are required to provide a reasonable standard of care to both expectant mothers and newborns throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Often, however, they fail to do so. When this is the case, they can be held legally responsible for the resulting damages.
What does this mean for parents? If your child suffered a brain injury after a difficult labor or delivery, you might be able to take legal action against the medical professionals and/or facility where the incident occurred. A birth injury lawsuit typically seeks financial compensation for the cost of medical treatment for your child, including CT head scans, MRIs, EEGs, and other tests used to diagnose infant brain damage. You may also be able to recover compensation for the cost of ongoing treatment, such as cognitive therapy, surgery, and medication. In many cases, victims are awarded punitive damages meant to punish the negligent parties and account for the family’s pain and suffering.
At Abramson, Brown & Dugan, we have helped countless victims of medical malpractice throughout the state of New Hampshire. We understand the emotional ramifications of learning your child suffered a preventable brain injury and are here to help you through the legal process.
Contact one of our New Hampshire birth injury lawyers at (603) 323-4622 to learn more about infant brain injuries and how we can help you with your case. Our firm offers free initial consultations and contingent fees, meaning you don’t pay unless we recover compensation on your behalf.