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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

Learn More

Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Modern medicine affords many treatments for infant brain injuries. The scope of treatment, however, depends on the injury severity and the health condition of each baby. An initial assessment will include CT scans and other medical tests, including a neurological assessment known as the Glasgow Coma scale. Measuring the conscious state of a person, it can determine if an infant needs further neurological evaluation if they score under a 15. Tests may be performed anyway if the symptoms warrant it.

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Types of Treatment

Surgery: Severe head trauma occurred during birth often requires immediate intervention, especially if there is bleeding in the skull cavity. Bone fractures, bleeding blood vessels, and blood clots can be surgically repaired. The most common procedures performed include a craniotomy, in which surgeons remove a bone flap to reach the brain, and repair the damage. Once this is accomplished, the bone previously removed is secured with plates and screws.

A decompressive craniectomy is when a large part of the skull bone is removed. It is performed when there is severe swelling and provides room for the swollen brain tissue to help avoid damage. A National Institutes of Health study found most infants and children (81 percent) who undergo this controversial procedure return to a normal life. However, it does carry a risk of a child requiring daily caregiving and experiencing more serious health complications.

Medication for Infant Brain Injuries

Infants with brain damage are prone to seizures, so anti-seizure medical treatment such as benzodiazepines, phenytoin, and levetiracetam will often be prescribed. If fluid build-up in the body and tissues is a problem, a baby may be given diuretics, which increase urination. These are usually given intravenously.

Anti-inflammatory medications are often prescribed as well. It’s also not uncommon for an infant to be given an appropriate dose of painkillers and antibiotics. Close monitoring of their condition helps determine exactly what drugs should be provided. The child’s condition will be monitored over time and, as they get older medications often address attention deficit disorders, hyperactivity, aggression, and other side effects that result from brain damage. Common types for these include amitriptyline, bromocriptine, and methylphenidate.

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Physical and Occupational Therapy

Any lasting physical, cognitive, and emotional effects can be addressed with the appropriate therapy. Each disorder comes with its own challenges. For example, children with autism and learning disorders have different needs than those with physical limitations.

Physical therapy includes exercises to improve and maintain flexibility, strengthen coordination and balance, and provide strength training. Some children need more practice sitting and standing, while others need activities that help add mobility to their joints. Depending on their exact state, electrical stimulation and thermal treatments may be provided. A physical therapist who is a Certified Brain Injury Specialist and is board-certified will know the best courses of treatment for the child.

Occupational therapy is designed to help children with brain injuries sustained at birth to overcome obstacles to performing daily tasks. The therapist can work to help them learn skills such as feeding/swallowing, grooming, dressing, using the toilet, and dressing themselves. Various cognitive and emotional issues can be addressed as well. Treatments also include rehabilitation of oral and fine motor skills, assistance with sensory and perceptual processing, and neuromusculoskeletal exercises. The protocol can be intensive but can improve a child’s ability to function and help overcome some of the challenges they face.