History of Cerebral Palsy
Dr. William Little, an orthopedic surgeon, was the first to publish a paper which described neurological problems children with spastic diplegia experienced.
Spastic diplegia is a disorder which struck children early in life and was characterized by stiff, spastic muscles in the arms and legs. The children had trouble grasping things, crawling and walking. The symptoms did not progress in intensity but neither did they improve as the child grew.
In the late 1800’s a British doctor, William Oster, coined the term cerebral palsy. It was generally believed that almost all cases of cerebral palsy were caused by complications during birth. It was felt complications caused lack of oxygen to the brain thereby damaging brain matter controlling movement.
Dr. Sigmund Freud, the psychiatrist, also did research on these children with cerebral palsy, but he felt that cerebral palsy might occur during the brain’s development.
Most held with the belief that cerebral palsy was usually caused by birth complications, and it wasn’t until the 1980’s that intensive studies showed that while thousands of children with cerebral palsy were the result of birth trauma there were thousands which could not be accounted for.
Researchers continue to research, looking for other causes of cerebral palsy and the most effective ways to treat it so children with this disorder can lead improved lives.
Cerebral palsy is a term used to refer to any number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy and early childhood that permanently affects body and muscle coordination. Cerebral palsy can make the muscles either rigid and stiff or floppy and weak. Unfortunately, cerebral palsy can’t be cured, but early intervention gives children a better chance to overcome some of the developmental disabilities and learn new methods to complete tasks.
Cerebral palsy in some children may be fairly mild, causing them to be merely awkward. Children with severe cerebral palsy may need extensive and lifelong care. Treatments may include some type of physical, occupational or speech therapy. The child may need medications to control seizures, relax muscle rigidity or even help when there is pain. Surgery may be necessary to correct some abnormalities and the use of braces or a wheelchair may be needed.
Sometimes cerebral palsy is a result of a birth trauma or injury. Several reasons that can cause cerebral palsy are listed below:
- Lack of oxygen to the baby because the baby was left in the birth canal too long.
- Failure to detect a prolapsed umbilical cord.
- Improper use of forceps for delivery.
- Failure to do a cesarean section when fetal distress occurs.
- Failure to respond to changes in the baby’s heart rate.
- Failure to plan a cesarean section when there is a large infant in utero that may cause difficult delivery.
- If a mother has changes in her condition during pregnancy such as high blood pressure or toxemia and these conditions are not addressed and treated.
The medical professionals that care for the expectant mother and her infant are responsible for providing safe and effective care before, during and after the birth. It is when the proper standard care of care is not followed that permanent brain damage to the infant can occur.
Indicators that a medical mistake may have caused cerebral palsy are as follows:
- An emergency delivery occurs either by way of cesarean section, forceps delivery or vacuum extraction.
- The baby requires resuscitation after delivery.
- Immediately after birth or within three to four days the baby develops seizures.
- Transfer of infant to a neonatal intensive care facility.
- Baby requires oxygen to help with breathing after difficult delivery.
- Baby requires MRI or brain scan after birth.
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