Strokes can occur in children of all ages, even while they are still in the womb. When there is insufficient blood flow to the brain of an infant, it is a condition known as infant brain ischemia. Blood carries oxygen as well as other vital nutrients to the cells and organs of the body, including the brain. A child can suffer from developmental delays and improper organ function. If the ischemic condition lasts for too long, the brain may become permanently damaged and the child may suffer a stroke.
What Is Infant Brain Ischemia?
Infant brain ischemia is a condition in which the blood does not flow correctly to a prenatal or neonatal brain. Lack of oxygen damages the brain as well as other major organs of the body such as the kidneys, the heart, and the liver. In infant brain ischemia, the brain is starved for oxygen due to inadequate blood flow. If an ischemic condition develops in the brain, the brain cells die which can severely limit chances for a normal recovery.
Symptoms of Infant Brain Ischemia
When a patient has ischemia, the brain is essentially starving to death. When the brain starts to shut down, it begins in the affected area and then branches out to other organs of the body. In some cases, the symptoms of infant brain ischemia can mirror those of a stroke.
The most common symptoms may include:
- Blindness in one eye
- Loss of coordination
- Weakness of isolated body parts or all of the body
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of movement in affected limbs or parts of body
Causes of Infant Brain Ischemia
There are several potential causes for infant brain ischemia. These causes can range from genetics, to viruses, to maternal lifestyle choices. Infants with a family history of neurological disorders, weakened immune systems, or birth defects due to maternal substance abuse have a much higher risk for developing brain ischemia. There are also certain maternal problems or biological factors that can cause this disorder in infants before or after birth.
The most common causes of ischemic strokes may include the following:
- An infection such as meningitis or chickenpox
- Genetic disorders
- Lack of oxygen during birth
- A heart defect, which is present at birth
- Blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia Injury to an artery
Examples of biological or maternal causes for infant brain ischemia include the following:
- Drug abuse
- Placental abruption in which the oxygen supply to the fetus is decreased
- Premature rupture of membranes in the womb
- Preeclampsia, or high blood pressure during pregnancy
Tests for Infant Brain Ischemia
If a stroke has been suspected in an infant, a medical professional will typically order a series of tests. These tests scan the body for potential abnormalities. In cases of brain ischemia, there is often a need to image the brain to check for lesions, tumors, or other problematic features indicative of an ischemic condition.
Potential tests for infant brain ischemia include:
- Blood tests
- CT scan
- Computed tomography angiography
If an infant has suffered from a stroke in the brain, it is possible that they might develop other disorders. Such disorders can include cerebral palsy, mental retardation, paralysis or weakness on one side, psychological difficulties, vision deficits and communication problems. A child who had a stroke may see a neuro-rehabilitation specialist who will help him or her to cope with this disease.
Treatment of Infant Brain Ischemia
Treatment of infant brain ischemia depends on the age of the child and the severity of the condition. It also depends on the cause of the stroke and ongoing condition of the stroke. In many cases, an infant who has experienced mild brain damage may get help by physical therapy, occupational therapy and medications. But infants who have suffered from a traumatic birth injury may need surgery in order to repair damaged organ systems.
Legal Consideration for Infant Brain Ischemia
Infant brain ischemia is a serious condition. It is usually caused from complications during birth or by exposure to particular traumas. It is the duty of medical professionals to monitor newborns for such complications and to prevent damage to the organ systems of the child. If your child has suffered from infant brain ischemia due to negligence or malpractice, it is critical to seek out an experienced birth injury lawyer who can go over the specifics of your case. The experience and knowledge of a birth injury attorney will give you the information you need to take the right steps to pursue justice.
Abram, Harry. “Strokes.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, 1 June 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2015. <http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/brain/strokes.html>.
Vries, Linda, and Floris Groenendaal. “Patterns of Neonatal Hypoxic–ischaemic Brain Injury.” Neuroradiology. Springer-Verlag. Web. 29 Jan. 2015. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2872019/>.
Vannucci, S. J. “Cerebral Ischemia and the Developing Brain: Introduction.” Stroke (2007): 723. Stroke. American Heart Association. Web. 29 Jan. 2015. <http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/38/2/723.full>.