Microcephaly (Greek for “small head”) is a generic term for a head that unusually small. There are specific measurements that help doctors to determine whether a child has microcephaly at birth or thereafter (see here for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s growth charts for age zero to two. Children with microcephaly have measurements significantly below the first percentile.
Causes of Microcephaly
Microcephaly can be caused by genetic problems, or may develop after birth. There are numerous causes and associations, including fetal alcohol syndrome, and infections like CMV (cytomegalovirus), rubella and toxoplasmosis.
In the context of birth injury malpractice, microcephaly can be evidence that something went wrong during labor and delivery. If a child’s head is normally sized at birth but it fails to grow at the proper rate, it likely indicates that the brain is not developing appropriately. One cause of that failure to grow is a significant trauma to the brain at birth, namely, lack of oxygen.
Microcephaly is typically just one symptom of another problem. When the brain has not properly developed, a child with microcephaly will have a lower life expectancy, and will likely suffer from intellectual disability, and impaired motor function. Children with microcephaly often suffer from seizures, which may require management by medication. The condition will likely be first identified by parents or the child’s pediatrician. Depending on the scope of medical problems associated with the child’s microcephaly, a pediatric neurologist may also help and may order CT scans or MRI scans to check for any underlying problems.
Treatment will based on your child’s symptoms. Many children receive physical, speech and occupational therapies to help maximize their potential.
Many doctors who treat children with microcephaly will not explore the underlying cause of the condition, so parents sometimes never know why their child has this injury. If your child has been diagnosed with microcephaly, contact our birth injury lawyers at (440) 252-4399 or send us information about your child’s condition through our online contact form. We can investigate whether your child’s medical problems were caused at birth and preventable.