Infant Brain Damage Prognosis
This article has been fact checked by a Board Certified Pediatrician. Sources of information for the article are listed at the bottom.
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A child suffering from brain damage is terrible, especially if it could’ve been prevented by medical caregivers. If your child developed brain damage before, during, or after birth, they may be living with the consequences of it for the rest of their lives.
An infant brain damage prognosis depends on individual factors: the severity of the damage, when it’s diagnosed, how it is treated, and more. Luckily, most cases of infant brain damage incurred during childbirth are mild and the prognosis is good. For infants that suffer moderate to severe damage, the prognosis is less positive. These children may be living with the complications of brain damage indefinitely, and in some cases, it can be fatal.
How Brain Damage Occurs in Infants
The number one cause of brain damage in an infant during or shortly after birth, is oxygen deprivation to the brain, known as asphyxiation. This can be caused by complications of delivery, illness or infection in the mother, untreated conditions in the baby after birth, and the use of instruments during delivery.
When a doctor or other caregiver have responsibility for the care of the baby and make a mistake that directly leads the brain damage, it is negligent, or it is also known as medical malpractice. Not screening the mother for illness or complications, not performing a Cesarean section during difficult or complicated labor, or using too much force with forces, are all examples of potential malpractice that can cause brain damage.
Mild Infant Brain Damage Prognosis
The good news for the majority of infants that suffer brain damage is that it will be considered mild and the prognosis will be largely positive. While infant brains are vulnerable, they are also changeable. A small amount of brain damage can heal and reverse over time. How long it takes to recover depends on the individual, and babies with mild brain damage may need some additional care including therapy to help aid that recovery.
Mild brain damage may cause some lasting consequences, but most people will not see these until the child grows older. Even mild brain damage is thought to contribute to cognitive impairments, behavioral challenges, and mental and emotional issues as a child ages. Later therapies and interventions can help treat these conditions that may or may not be related to earlier brain damage.
Moderate to Severe Infant Brain Damage Prognosis
Damage that is more severe is more likely to cause lasting symptoms and complications for an infant. The prognosis varies by child, but it is generally less positive than for children suffering only mild damage. Children who suffered moderate to severe brain damage are likely to have some lasting complications, symptoms, and conditions.
For very severe brain damage, a child may not survive. Infants that have been deprived of oxygen for a long period of time during labor, for example, may not be able to be revived. If traumatic physical injury caused the brain damage, emergency surgery may be needed to drain fluids pooling in the brain before the pressure on the brain worsens and causes more harm.
For some infants with brain damage at birth, the prognosis for the future may include a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. This is a condition characterized by over or under toned muscles, spastic muscle movements, difficulty moving or walking, speech delays, and potentially cognitive or behavioral impairments. A child with cerebral palsy will need some kind of treatment or care indefinitely, although the condition may be mild in some children and more severe and debilitating in others.
Another potential consequence of infant brain damage is a seizure disorder. Some children with brain damage will experience seizures. These may occur immediately after birth and how long they last varies by individual. There are treatments for seizure disorders including medications or even brain surgery for those cases that are more debilitating and with more frequent seizures.
Cognitive, Developmental, and Physical Delays
An infant brain damage prognosis may also include several general complications that may last forever or that may respond to treatment and improve over time. These include cognitive and behavioral challenges, both of which can be treated with therapeutic strategies and educational interventions. They also include developmental delays that require therapy and treatment and physical disabilities that may be permanent, but can be helped by rehabilitation and physical therapy.
Hypothermic Therapy Gives New Hope
A newer treatment for infant brain damage is proving to give parents more hope that their children will recover. If brain damage is detected or suspected in an infant right after birth, doctors can use hypothermic treatment to slow or even reverse the damage. It involves cooling the baby’s body temperature for about three days. This seems to slow down the damage that accumulates in the brain after some type of injury. In some cases this treatment has completely reversed brain damage and provided parents and babies with a new, more hopeful and positive infant brain damage prognosis.
Resources for Families of Infants with Brain Damage
If your baby suffered brain damage at birth the consequences could be devastating for you, the baby, and your family. Knowing that your child may suffer with complications and symptoms for the rest of his life is terrible. To provide the best care for your child you need good treatment, therapy, and ongoing care, but that costs money.
Your child’s brain damage and negative prognosis may have been caused by medical malpractice. If you think you can prove that your doctor made a mistake that may have led to that brain damage, you could recover compensation that would help you give your child everything he needs. Let a birth injury lawyer help guide you through the process of gathering evidence, filing a lawsuit, and doing everything possible to win a settlement for your baby.