Cerebral palsy is an incurable, non-progressive motor disorder which results from damage or abnormalities in areas of the brain responsible for controlling movement and muscle coordination. Though cerebral palsy the most common motor disorder in children, research has shown it is often preventable in many cases. Typically, preventable cerebral palsy results from the mistakes of doctors and health care providers who fail to meet their duty of care when treating pregnant mothers, facilitating labor and delivery, or shortly after childbirth.
As a personal injury firm that’s earned national recognition for record-setting results, and for our work in complex cases involving medical malpractice and birth injuries, The Becker Law Firm knows what profound suffering and consequences can result from the negligence of doctors, nurses, hospitals, and others who had obligations to provide adequate care to mothers and their babies.
With decades of experience, extensive resources, and award-winning attorneys (including attorneys who are also licensed medical professionals), we have the tools to help families seek justice and compensation for serious birth injuries like cerebral palsy that could and should have been prevented.
Speak personally with an Ohio birth injury attorney to discuss your rights, options, and how The Becker Law Firm can help. Call (440) 252-4399 or contact us online for a free consultation.
Three Main Cerebral Palsy Subtypes
Cerebral palsy can be categorized using a variety of diagnostic and organizational systems which focus on the condition’s key characteristics, such as its severity, impact on muscle tone and limbs, and extent of impairment. Generally, however, cerebral palsy is classified as one of three main types:
- Spastic Cerebral Palsy – As the most common form of the condition, spastic cerebral palsy is characterized by muscular spasms and hypertonia, meaning severe tension in the muscles caused by too much muscle tone. Children with this type of CP often experience involuntary contractions and spasms, as well as pain and stress affecting the muscles. It may also coincide with scoliosis, hip dislocation, joint deformities, and other additional conditions or side effects. Experts note the hypertonia which occurs with spastic cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage, and specifically lesions in the central nervous system’s UMNs (upper motor neurons), which control voluntary movement.
- Dyskinetic / Athetoid Cerebral Palsy – Athetoid / dyskinetic CP accounts for as much as 20% of all cerebral palsy cases, and is characterized by a combination of hypertonia (too much muscle tone and stiffness), hypotonia (too little muscle tone and contraction impairment), and involuntary spasms. It typically results from brain damage in the basal ganglia, which helps control and regulate voluntary movement, and is commonly caused by hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (a form of brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen) or kernicterus (brain damage resulting from inappropriately managed jaundice). Children with this type of cerebral palsy (which is further classified into dystonia, athetoid, and chorea subgroups based on the nature of muscle movements), may have involuntary contractions and abnormal posture, involuntary slow or writhing movements, or involuntary jerking spasms. This may manifest in difficulties with a child’s ability to walk, hold objects, perform fine motor functions, swallow or talk, and sit upright.
- Ataxic Cerebral Palsy – The least common form of cerebral palsy, ataxic CP results from damage to the cerebellum, the part of the brain which regulates and coordinates muscle activity. Children with ataxic cerebral palsy typically display problems with controlled movements and with the execution of fine motor functions. This includes problems with balance or coordination for larger movements like walking, as well as difficulties with precise actions such as writing. Hypotonia, or a lack of muscle tone which impedes the muscle’s ability to contract, is a common characteristic of ataxic CP in young children, as are visual problems (particularly with depth perception and eye movement) and difficulties with speech.
In some cases, children with cerebral palsy may display symptoms that don’t fit solely within one of the three main types. This may happen if a child shows signs of stiffness caused by excessive muscle tone (hypertonia) in some muscles, and signs of looseness and contraction difficulties caused by decreased muscle tone (hypotonia) in others. This may be classified as mixed cerebral palsy.
Other Ways to Classify Cerebral Palsy
In addition to the three primary types of cerebral palsy, medical experts may choose to further classify cerebral palsy and the nature of a child’s condition by evaluating certain factors and the condition’s overall impact on a child’s life. For example, cerebral palsy may be additionally classified based on:
- Muscle tone (hypertonic or hypotonic cerebral palsy);
- The number of limbs affected and where those limbs are affected, such as monoplegic (1 limb), paraplegic (2 lower limbs), or hemiplegic (2 limbs on the same side of the body) cerebral palsy, among others;
- Measurements assigned using the Gross Motor Classification System (GMFCS), which evaluates a child’s age, their functional ability in places such as the home or at school, and the extent of their movement, balance, and coordination impairment.
- Manual Ability Classification System (MACS) levels, which refer to one of five levels of classification (I – V) based on a child’s ability to grasp, handle, and manipulate various objects using their hands, which are functional abilities closely linked to the child’s propensity to independently perform daily tasks.
- Communication Function Classification System (CFCS), which like MACS uses five levels of increasing severity to categorize cerebral palsy and any other conditions a child might have based on their ability to communicate, both with people they know and with people whom they are not familiar.
Helping Ohio Families Seek Justice & Compensation for Preventable Cerebral Palsy
No matter the form it takes or how it’s classified, cerebral palsy can profoundly affect children, their futures, and the lives of their families. From creating difficulties with navigating the world around them and completing daily tasks to requiring expensive and long-term medical monitoring, treatment, care for related conditions, and assistive devices or attendant care, cerebral palsy’s impact is not only physically challenging for individuals, but also economically and emotionally difficult for all involved.
Since being founded in 1980, The Becker Law Firm has been committed to fighting for individuals and families following preventable tragedies, injuries, and illnesses caused by the negligence of others. If your child was born with cerebral palsy you believe was caused by medical negligence or malpractice, our caring and compassionate team is available to review your situation, discuss whether you may have a potential birth injury claim, and explain what we can do to protect your rights as we seek justice and financial compensation for your damages.
Contact us onlineor call us at (440) 252-4399 to request a free and confidential consultation. Our birth injury and cerebral palsy attorneys proudly serve clients throughout Cleveland and the state of Ohio.