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Traumatic brain injury and cerebral palsy may occur during labor and delivery or shortly after birth. Traumatic brain injuries are considered a severe medical issue, and treatment must be initiated quickly for the best possible outcome.
Traumatic Brain Injuries and Brain Damage Causes
When it occurs during the birthing process, a traumatic brain injury is often linked to medical negligence and medical mistakes. For example, a physician using birth-assisting tools such as forceps or a vacuum extraction tool may use too much force or improperly, causing significant damage to the infant’s head.
When these tools are used properly, they assist doctors in delivering babies in time before they experience oxygen deprivation. Doctors generally use these tools during difficult births.
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The infant may be dropped shortly after delivery, causing brain injuries. This usually happens if the infant is pulled out too fast and the physician isn’t being extremely mindful. This kind of mistake is unusual and very rare.
Brain damage can occur due to:
- Umbilical cord issues leading to oxygen deprivation
- Placental problems
- High maternal blood pressure
- Undiagnosed and untreated maternal infections
- Jaundice or elevated bilirubin (if bilirubin levels are too high, kernicterus can occur, a rare form of brain damage)
Consequences of Traumatic Brain Injuries and Damage
Cerebral palsy is one of the results of traumatic brain damage, but misusing birth-assisted tools can also lead to other severe medical conditions for the infant, including brachial palsy, Erb’s palsy, shoulder dystocia, and more.
Other conditions that can result due to traumatic brain damage include:
- Head deformities
- Subdural hemorrhage
- Epidural hemorrhage
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage
As the baby grows older, other complications may be more apparent, including cognitive issues, missed milestones, executive functioning issues, problems with behavior and communication, sensory problems, and emotional outbursts.
Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms
Keep in mind that traumatic brain injuries and brain damage can encompass a wide range of severity, from mild to severe. The baby’s symptoms will depend on the severity of the injury.
In general, common signs and symptoms that occur in infants with traumatic brain injury and brain damage include:
- Persistent, uncontrollable crying
- Visible injuries on the scalp
- Difficulties with feeding
- Non-responsive to light and other stimuli
- Neck stiffness
- Excessive fussiness
- Unusual lethargy
- Increased blood pressure
- Slow breathing rate
- Spinal fluid may come out of the ear or nose
- Dilated pupils
- Slow pulse
Traumatic Brain Damage Diagnosis
A physician will first look for the most obvious symptoms to diagnose traumatic brain damage. If they are present, head ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI), or a computed tomography head scan (CT) is typically performed. These imaging tests evaluate for skull fractures and brain abnormalities.
A head ultrasound is generally the first type of test administered because it’s more readily available. They also take less time to complete and are less invasive when compared to MRI or CT scans. Although more time-consuming and intrusive, MRI produces a more in-depth image of the brain.
There are currently several treatment options for traumatic brain damage. Although it may not stop cerebral palsy from developing, it can give the infant a better chance of survival and fewer complications as they grow older.
Treatment options include:
- Surgery to repair fractures, remove blood clots, and drain accumulated fluid
- Mechanical ventilation assistance to help reduce brain swelling and the amount of damage
- Therapy, including physical, occupational, speech, and alternative therapies
- Adaptive equipment
Since traumatic brain injuries are so complex, it’s difficult for doctors to determine the infant’s prognosis. Sometimes it takes months, and even years, before the long-term outlook can be established.
The prognosis will depend on how severe the brain damage is and how well the child responds to treatment. If the child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, they will live with the condition for life. However, the good news is that cerebral palsy doesn’t worsen over time, and many children thrive if provided with the proper treatment.
- Traumatic Brain Injury in Infants and Toddlers, 0–3 Years Old. (15, August). PubMed Central (PMC).
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3168813/