Infant brain damage has a severe impact on millions of babies every year. Brain damage can be caused by trauma during birth, birth defects, and infections. Brain damage usually causes long term physical problems and neurological issues. When infant brain damage could have been prevented by treating physicians, victims may be entitled to compensation that can help pay for treatment and life-long care.
Infant Brain Damage Causes
Infant brain damage may be caused by many different complications, including:
- Birth asphyxia
- Improper use of birth assisting tools
- Excessive pressure on the infant’s head during delivery
- Maternal infections such as syphilis, rubella, and herpes
- Maternal preeclampsia
- Untreated jaundice
- Placental complications
Effects of Infant Brain Damage
The effects of brain damage may vary widely, depending on the cause of the brain damage and the areas of the brain that are affected. Oxygen deprivation for long periods of time can cause vision complications and disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cerebral palsy, and autism as a result of brain cell death. Oxygen deprivation can be fatal if not caught before it causes extreme damage to the brain.
Effects of Untreated Jaundice
Jaundice in infants is very common and gives infant’s skin and eyes a yellowish tone. Excessive amounts of bilirubin in the red blood cells are the cause of jaundice in infants. Treatment usually helps infants to avoid any complications. If untreated, the bilirubin levels in the blood will continue to increase, which can cause conditions such as kernicterus and acute bilirubin encephalopathy. Bilirubin is toxic to the brain, so when these conditions develop, the extremely high levels of bilirubin in the blood can cause irreparable damage to the brain.
Effects of Maternal Infections
Maternal infections cause about 25 percent of the premature births in the United States. Premature birth and the low birth weight that is common of prematurely born infants increases the risk of brain damage and resulting cognitive and physical disabilities and limitations. Although the direct correlation has not been confirmed, studies have shown a link between premature birth due to infections and conditions such as epilepsy and schizophrenia.
Effects of Birth Trauma
Infant brain damage resulting from birth trauma is the leading cause of cerebral palsy in the United States, according to the UCSF School of Medicine. These risks are further increased if the baby is born prematurely. Birth trauma may be caused by physicians using forceps or a vacuum extractor in a rough manner that puts pressure on the infant’s skull. If the mother is in labor for a long period of time and the baby’s head is repeatedly striking against the mother’s pelvis, it may cause trauma to the infant’s head and brain. The birthing techniques used by the physician may also cause the infant’s head and body to be twisted and pulled, which can cause damage to the brain.
Infant Brain Damage Symptoms
Symptoms of brain damage may be immediately apparent or may surface at a later date, depending on the cause of the damage and the brain injuries sustained. While crying is expected after birth, excessive high-pitched crying may be a sign of infant brain damage. Refusing to feed or difficulties with feeding may also be a sign of brain damage. Developmental delays such as inability to crawl or walk at certain ages may be a sign of infant brain damage, but numerous other issues can cause these types of delays in development, so a physician should be consulted to determine the cause of these delays.
Infant Brain Damage Treatment
If infant brain damage was caused by physical trauma at the time of birth, surgery may help to repair damage and relieve intracranial pressure caused by swelling. Occupational therapy and physical therapy may help infants that have suffered brain damage to reach developmental milestones. Medication may alleviate some symptoms of infant brain damage, depending on the details of the case and the condition.
Preventing Infant Brain Damage
Research into infant brain damage prevention is ongoing. Preliminary studies have shown that hypothermia therapy after birth can help to decrease the chances of long-term brain damage and resulting conditions. Advanced neonatal brain monitoring systems have also helped to show how different treatments affect brain function in infants, which is helping to prevent brain damage on an individual level.
Cronan, Kate. “Head Injuries.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, 1 Jan. 2011. Web. 28 Jan. 2015. <http://kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/emergencies/head_injury.html>
“Facts about Jaundice and Kernicterus.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 June 2013. Web. 28 Jan. 2015. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/jaundice/facts.html>
Vidinsky, Kate. “University of California San Francisco.” Innovative Center at UCSF Specializes in Treating the Infant Brain. The Regents of the University of California, 13 Nov. 2008. Web. 28 Jan. 2015. <http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2008/11/4164/innovative-center-ucsf-specializes-treating-infant-brain>