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Cerebral palsy may be preventable

As many New Mexico parents know, cerebral palsy is a condition that profoundly affects a child's muscle coordination and motor skills. It may occur before, during or shortly after birth. CP is a lifelong condition and may affect speech, vision and intellect. Long thought to be the result of low oxygen supply to the infant's brain during birth, it is now known that other factors are involved and may be prevented with proper treatment.

Other causes of CP involve the mother's health during pregnancy. Viral, placental or pelvic infections may produce cytokines that circulate in the maternal and fetal blood that may cause brain damage. Premature birth, low birth weight and high levels of bilirubin in the fetal blood also are linked to CP. Disrupted flow of oxygen to the baby's brain attributable to a birth injury is responsible for some cases.

Medical intervention at all levels may reduce the incidence of CP. For instance, health providers may stress the importance of maternal vaccination against some viral illnesses, and efforts to treat bacterial infections and reduce fever are helpful. Research shows that the use of magnesium sulfate before birth reduces the likelihood of premature birth. Elevated bilirubin may cause kernicterus that leads to CP. Checking the infant's blood for bilirubin may allow treatment with phototherapy or blood transfusion to prevent kernicterus. In addition, Rh incompatibility may lead to jaundice and kernicterus.

If a mother receives inadequate prenatal care or steps are not taken to minimize infection or injury and determine potential causes that lead to CP, health care professionals may be considered negligent. Since CP is a lifelong condition that requires medical intervention, parents may seek compensation to offset the expense. Consulting with an attorney to determine if a malpractice suit is applicable may be advisable.

Source: CDC, "Causes and Risk Factors of Cerebral Palsy", October 15, 2014

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