Expectant parents spend nine months anticipating the birth of their child. This journey is often a time of overwhelming excitement. However, even after a normal and healthy pregnancy, things can go wrong during delivery. Sometimes, arduous labors and deliveries, coupled with negligence, can result in spinal cord injuries.
Spinal cord injuries are devastating for victims of any age. Every year, more than 17,500 people suffer these horrific injuries across the United States. Although newborns and infants account for less than 5% of all spinal cord damage cases in our country each year, spinal cord injuries are often traumatic and result in an array of additional medical complications and issues.
Learning that your infant suffered a spinal cord injury can be frightening. Thankfully, you can educate yourself on ways to manage the condition, your treatment options, and long-term outlooks. With this knowledge, you will be in a better position to help your child as they grow.
When children are left with debilitating spinal cord injuries, as a result of a medical professional’s negligence, families may be entitled to compensation to help cover the costs of medical treatment, pain and suffering, and various other damages they face from the injuries.
Our team at The Malpractice Group has decades of experience assisting families in getting the justice they deserve after their newborns have endured devastating spinal cord injuries. We help determine the truth behind your child’s injury to determine what really happened so you can move forward with obtaining the compensation you need and deserve for treatment. Contact our medical malpractice attorneys at your earliest convenience to see how we can assist you.
What is Infant Spinal Cord Damage?
Spinal cord damage occurs when a medical malady or blunt force trauma affects the spinal cord. These injuries can be a contusion along the spinal cord or a complete tear to the affected area. Aside from direct trauma during labor and delivery, spinal cord injuries can occur as a result of a misdiagnosis of spina bifida, which is a condition that impacts the vertebrae.
Children who have spina bifida, particularly those suffering from myelomeningocele, risk suffering irreversible damages from medical staff touching and damaging the nerves as a result of not accurately diagnosing the condition.
It is important to note that injuries can occur at any point along the spinal cord. Statistics from Boston’s Children Hospital found that around 60% to 75% of spinal cord injuries occur in the neck area on infants and children. Spinal cord injuries in these areas are often referred to as cervical injuries. Cervical injuries can result in the total loss of movement, feeling, and control over all four limbs as well as the torso. These injuries are also more likely to be fatal when compared to spinal cord injuries at another location of the spine. Another 20% suffer injuries in the upper back or chest area while the remaining 5% to 20% sustain spinal cord injuries in the lower back.
Regardless of the location where the injury occurs, spinal cord damage can have a life-altering impact on a developing child. When children suffer these horrific injuries, consequent to medical negligence, it is crucial that families contact an infant spinal cord damage attorney as soon as possible.
Diagnosing Spinal Cord Damage
If spinal cord injuries occur before birth, medical professionals are able to utilize several imaging tools to detect them. Routine prenatal blood tests, as well as ultrasound imaging, can detect spina bifida in a developing fetus. When detected early, doctors can prepare the parents and other medical professionals for safe childbirth in an attempt to prevent permanent spinal cord damages.
If your child exhibits signs of spinal cord damage after birth, doctors will perform physical exams and run various tests before making an official diagnosis. Some of the tools doctors use to make a diagnosis include, but are not limited to:
- X-rays: X-rays help doctors determine if there are any fractures in the vertebrae. Although X-rays can be helpful in detecting certain injuries, small fractures may not be visible through this type of imaging.
- CT Scans: CT Scans are more beneficial for diagnosing spinal cord damages because they reveal much clearer images of problems along the vertebrae. This form of imaging is much clearer than x-rays, which allows doctors to get a better look at the affected area. Unfortunately, CT scans are not helpful in diagnosing nerve issues.
- MRIs: This imaging method is the best option for diagnosing spinal cord injuries. MRIs show tumors on the spine, lesions, and even compression. These images are far more detailed and provide insight for medical professionals regarding the type and extent of injuries.
Unfortunately, infant spinal cord injuries can have an overwhelming impact on the health and wellbeing of growing children.
Why Can Childbirth Cause an Infant Spinal Cord Injury?
Several things can cause spine over-stretching and damage during labor and delivery. Labors that are particularly lengthy and stressful place babies at an increased risk for suffering spinal cord injuries. This is due to the traction that is placed on the trunk of the infant from rotational stresses along the spinal axis. Breech delivery causing the fetal head to be in an abnormal birthing position further increase the possibility of devastating injuries. Additionally, medical conditions in the nervous system and brain can cause injuries and damages to the spine.
Spinal cord injuries can also be a result of blunt force trauma during delivery. Many spinal cord damage cases involve injuries that are caused by forceps, vacuums, or the obstetrician’s hands. When tools or hands are used to ease the passage of the baby through the birth canal, bruises, tears, and other injuries can occur.
When the spinal cord is stretched during delivery, it can result in permanent damage that impacts the baby for the rest of their life. Spinal cord injuries can be costly and time-consuming to treat and can require a lifetime use of medical equipment. When children suffer as a result of negligent medical professionals, families may be entitled to compensation to help alleviate the life-long financial burdens they face.
Symptoms of an Infant Spinal Cord Injury
Infant spinal cord injuries come with an array of negative symptoms. The severity of the symptoms is determined by the location in which the injury occurred. Generally, there is a multitude of symptoms that are common for spinal cord damages, regardless of where they occur. These symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- The inability to move at and below the location of the injury
- Abnormal reflexes
- Muscle spasms
- Weakness in the affected area and below
- Stinging pain caused by nerve damages around the spinal cord
- Problems breathing
- Bowel and bladder control issues
The severity of these and other symptoms depends primarily on the severity of the injury. Not every spinal cord injury will bring forward all of these symptoms. Unfortunately, these and other devastating symptoms can last indefinitely, depending on the severity of the injury. When spinal cord damage is the result of medical negligence, it is crucial that families reach out to a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.
Long-Term Effects of an Infant Spinal Cord Injury
Damages due to spinal cord injuries are devastating for infants and children. Some children who sustain these horrific injuries never fully recover. In some instances, the injuries can result in paralysis. In other cases, babies and small children suffer intellectual disabilities or even death. The prognosis of spinal cord damage depends on whether the injury was complete or incomplete in nature.
Incomplete injuries leave passage through the spinal cord. This enables the brain to communicate and send messages through to the rest of the body. These injuries present the most hope for regaining motor and sensory functions. Incomplete spinal cord injuries account for around 70% of all spinal cord damages.
On the other hand, complete injuries, which account for roughly 30% of all spinal cord injuries, are those where victims suffer a complete severing of the spinal cord. With complete spinal injuries, there is a total loss of sensory and motor function below the point of the injury. Statistically, babies with complete spinal cord damages are less likely to recover.
Fortunately, the majority of spinal cord injuries are not severe in nature and do not cause permanent injuries. Many babies are immobile during the healing process and require the use of an orthotic brace, lumbar brace, or other devices that help promote healing where the injury occurred. Other babies benefit immensely from steroids that protect their spinal cord from further injuries.
The Malpractice Group Can Help You
Our accomplished attorneys at The Malpractice Group of Wais Vogelstein Forman & Offutt have extensive experience assisting families to obtain the justice they deserve after their children suffer debilitating spinal cord injuries. We understand the overwhelming impact spinal cord injuries have on children and their families. For this reason, we provide aggressive legal representation to ensure those responsible are held accountable for their actions. Contact our infant spinal cord injury attorneys at (312) 561-4324 as soon as possible to schedule a free case evaluation to determine how we may assist you.