Diagnosing Cerebral Palsy - Charlotte Lawyers

The sooner doctors diagnose cerebral palsy, the more the child will benefit from physical and occupational therapy. There is currently no cure for cerebral palsy, but studies have shown that children who receive early intervention have better results as children and later in life. Our brains have plasticity, meaning they can adapt and heal after brain injuries. When doctors fail to diagnose babies with cerebral palsy in a timely manner, those babies will experience negative consequences. Diagnosis is important for other reasons as well, such as:

  • Understanding the health status of one’s child
  • Removing doubt and fear of the unknown
  • To find and obtain benefits to provide financial assistance to offset the cost of raising a child with cerebral palsy

There are a variety of programs that provide financial assistance for children with disabilities or impairments. In order to qualify for these benefits, the child must have a formal diagnosis. Further, if the cause of the child’s cerebral palsy disorder is the result of medical malpractice, it is crucial that parents obtain a formal diagnosis as soon as possible; and that they speak with an experienced attorney regarding their options to file a negligence claim against the medical staff responsible.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy describes a group of disorders that negatively affect muscle tone, movement, or posture. Typically, cerebral palsy happens after damage occurs to the immature brain as it develops. Many times, a brain injury before birth causes cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy can also be caused by congenital brain issues. The following symptoms can indicate cerebral palsy:

  • Impaired movement
  • Abnormal reflexes
  • Floppiness or rigidity of the limbs and trunk
  • Abnormal posture
  • Involuntary movements
  • Unsteady walking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Eye muscle imbalances
  • Reduced range of motion due to stiffness in the muscles
  • Tremors or involuntary movements
  • Delays in reaching milestones for motor skills
  • Preferring to use one side of the body
  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty eating or sucking
  • Seizures
  • Learning difficulties
  • A combination of these symptoms
How Doctors Diagnose Cerebral Palsy

Parents want to help their children in every possible way. It can be extremely frustrating to seek a cerebral palsy diagnosis. Many of the symptoms of cerebral palsy overlap with other conditions, making it difficult to diagnose. Additionally, cerebral palsy can affect the entire body, or it might only affect one side of the body (hemiplegia), or the legs (diplegia). Cerebral palsy affects every person differently. Sometimes, the symptoms of cerebral palsy do not become apparent until the child is in kindergarten or later.

Another reason diagnosing cerebral palsy is challenging involves the wide spectrum of functionality. Some people who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy can walk while others cannot walk. Some people with cerebral palsy have intellectual delays while others only suffer from physical impairments. Blindness, deafness, and epilepsy can also be evidence of cerebral palsy. For example, when a baby suffers a brain bleed, the blood can damage the cerebral cortex, affecting eyesight.

Methods of Diagnosing Cerebral Palsy

When a child shows signs of cerebral palsy, was born prematurely, or suffered a brain injury, doctors are instructed to begin a process of evaluating and testing the child. There is not a simple test for cerebral palsy. Usually, doctors will evaluate a child over a series of appointments. Doctors will evaluate the child to see if another medical condition is causing the symptoms or whether cerebral palsy is the cause.

Observation by the Family

The first step in making a cerebral palsy diagnosis involves family members observing the child. Many times, doctors will ask family members to record any abnormal behaviors or symptoms that the child experiences each day. Doctors ask parents to record symptoms of physical impairment. Parents should also watch for learning difficulties and speech impediments as those symptoms can indicate cerebral palsy.

Observation by a Pediatrician

Typically, pediatricians will then examine the child for symptoms. They usually ask the child to walk across the room and test the child’s reflexes to see if they are developing normally. If the child is at high risk for a neurological disorder or was born prematurely, pediatricians will likely begin to observe the child immediately after the birth. Even after a doctor diagnoses a child with cerebral palsy, the child will still need to see a pediatrician on a regular basis for wellness checks. The pediatrician can monitor the child and alert specialists to any relevant changes.

Assessing Motor Function Development

Doctors will also assess the child’s motor function because a diminished motor function is one of the primary symptoms of cerebral palsy. Experienced doctors perform tests to determine whether the child’s motor functions are impaired or limited. Assessments include an examination of muscle tone, coordination, reflexes, posture, balance, and fine motor functions. A thorough examination will help the doctor determine the cause of the symptoms. It will also help the doctor create a treatment plan for managing pain, as well as ensure the child receives adequate nutrition and therapies.

Contact Our Charlotte Cerebral Palsy Lawyers Today

If doctors did not diagnose your child with cerebral palsy when they should have, you may have personal injury claim. Raising a child with cerebral palsy is extremely difficult and expensive, be sure that you have all the necessary resources to provide adequate care for your child. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC our attorneys have successfully represented clients in medical malpractice lawsuits. Contact our Charlotte personal injury attorney’s as soon as possible to schedule your case evaluation. Call our office at (704) 370-2828 to evaluate your options or fill out our contact form. Now taking cases throughout North Carolina with offices in Uptown Charlotte, Mooresville, and Monroe.

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