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Birth Injury Update: Study Links Cerebral Palsy, Apgar Scores

On behalf of Steven Cooper at Cooper Law Firm

The condition of virtually every child born in the U.S. and in many other countries is assessed by the attending medical team to check for signs of distress immediately after birth. Obstetricians have standardized a process called the Apgar score to make a record of a newborn's color, heart rate, respiration, muscle tone, and reflexes. A study recently published in the British Medical Journal indicates that Apgar scores at birth have been correlated with debilitating cerebral palsy, a condition that can be caused by a birth injury.

The study, based on a decade of data from over 580,000 births in Norway, found that a low Apgar score had a strong association with the future diagnosis of each of the three types of spastic cerebral palsy before the child turned five. The researchers stated that the association is strongest in children with high birth weights. Both perinatal hypoxia (oxygen deprivation) and prenatal causes have been related to cerebral palsy, a disorder which severely affects a child's movement and posture and is attributed to disturbances in the fetal or infant brain.

The higher rate of harm to larger babies may suggest the greater risks they face during vaginal deliveries that are more likely to involve the use of forceps, excessive medication and extended delays in the birth canal. State licensing boards, hospital governing bodies and professional groups devise detailed standards for medical practices such as C-sections, but carelessness, willful ignorance and preventable errors sometimes lead to tragic outcomes for expectant families.

Tragedies at Birth Can Lead to a Lifetime of Medical Expenses and Personal Care

All types of medical malpractice cases are complex, and legal claims by injured patients or aggrieved family members require a steady hand, experience and patience. Birth injury claims involving cerebral palsy can be all the more complicated because the condition may not be diagnosed for several years from the moment when delivery room negligence occurred.

Families who consult with a personal injury lawyer when they begin to realize that something went wrong during their child's birth can learn a great deal about their legal options. Long-term care for an infant who suffered shoulder dystocia, Erb's palsy or a birth defect due to a medical error is an expense that most families may find it difficult to bear. By fully assessing the injuries, reviewing medical records and taking a strong stand for a client, a birth injury attorney can ease the burdens caused when a health professional harms a patient.