The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. It’s the spinal cord that coordinates both the movements that we make and sensations that we feel by sending and receiving signals from the brain to various parts of the body. If a person’s spinal cord becomes damaged, it’s ability to send signals to and from the brain to bodily systems below the level of the injury will either become interfered with or completely stop. That results in at least some degree of paralysis.
Damage to a Newborn’s Spinal Cord
Even after a perfectly normal and uneventful pregnancy, life-threatening issues can arise at the time that a baby is being delivered. There are times when doctors need to make quick decisions. A situation might arise when a delay in delivery might result in an inadequate supply of blood to the brain. That presents a risk of permanent brain damage. The other choice is to deliver the baby quickly. That increases the risks of traumatic injuries, including those to the spinal cord.
Cord Bruising or Tearing
Spinal cord injuries as a result of medical negligence during delivery can be catastrophic. They’re often the result of trauma from pulling or twisting with a doctor’s hands, the use of a vacuum extractor or even forceps while trying to facilitate a baby’s passage through the birth canal. During this journey, the baby’s spinal cord might become bruised, partially torn or completely torn. If a doctor or midwife causes damage to a baby’s spinal cord as a result of an act or omission, that might be determined to be medical malpractice.
Undue Stress on the Spinal Column
The vertebrae consisting of the spine and the surrounding ligaments and muscles offer protection to the spinal cord at the time of birth and throughout life. Difficulty in labor and trauma during delivery are going to place stress on the spinal column that it’s not yet prepared to deal with. Manipulation of a baby during delivery might damage the critical top of the spine that carries the head.
High Cord and Low Cord Injuries
Somewhere between 60 to 75% of all spinal cord injuries suffered by babies during labor or delivery are to the upper spine and neck. What’s important about those percentages is the fact that the higher the level in the spinal cord where the damage occurs, the more profound the consequences are going to be. For example, if the baby’s head becomes hyperextended, it might resemble the baby looking up at clouds in the sky. This is often seen in breech and face-first deliveries. Pulling and tugging during hyperextension can damage the upper end of the spinal cord when the head is hyperextended. That might render the baby a quadriplegic with no use of its arms or legs and poorly functioning vital organs. Damage lower down the cord might only render him or her paraplegic with loss of use of the legs.
Common Symptoms of Newborn Spinal Cord Injuries
Different newborns might show different symptoms of spinal cord injuries. Much depends on where the injury is and how severe it is. Sometimes, the injuries even escape diagnosis. Here are some of the more common symptoms:
- Floppiness, droopiness or lack of extremity movement.
- Diminished or no sensitivity to touch.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Delayed reflexes.
- Muscle weakness.
- Muscle spasms.
- Cognitive dysfunction.
The Importance of Early Treatment
Some babies with spinal cord damage from birth might experience improvement, but disabilities over the long-term can still be expected to be significant. The sooner that treatment and therapy can begin, the better the chances are that maximum improvement and function might be attained. What comes to issue are the costs of long-term or even lifetime care, treatment and therapy. Those are going to be overwhelming.
Contact a Louisville Birth Injury Lawyer.
If your newborn suffered a spinal cord injury at birth in or around Louisville, and you believe that it was caused by medical negligence, you’ll want to speak with a qualified, experienced and effective Louisville birth injury lawyer from our offices. We can arrange to obtain copies of all appropriate medical records for review. If there are indications of medical negligence in the delivery of your child, we will advise you accordingly. After that, we will advise you of your legal alternatives. There is no charge for consulting with us. If we enter into a retainer agreement with you, no legal fees are due unless we obtain a settlement or award for you.