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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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Diagnosing Birth Brain Injuries

The birth brain damage diagnostic process will be triggered whenever a baby exhibits symptoms or risk factors have been present. If prolonged vaginal delivery took place or forceps had to be used to assist the process, a doctor may rely on imaging technology to rule out a traumatic brain injury.

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Brain Scans

The Brain Injury Association of America outlines the diagnostic process as consisting of several important steps. These include assessment of the symptoms, a neurophysiological assessment and the use of imaging technology.

Computer tomography (CT) scans are usually the first diagnostic option that medics rely on. A CT scan can be completed quickly and it will provide immediate information about a hemorrhage or an injury.

The other imaging technology that can prove to be highly beneficial in such instances is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI scans are much more sensitive than CT scans and they will provide comprehensive information about the condition of the brain.

The problem with MRI scans is that they take longer to complete than CT scans and they cost more. When a serious risk is present, a doctor may recommend the use of this more sensitive technology to speed up the diagnosis and introduce the measures necessary to control the potential brain damage.

Depending on the situation, some even more advanced imaging technologies may be used. Functional MRI scans, single photon emission computer tomography, diffuse tensor imaging and positron emission tomography are much less common and are not considered standard diagnostic tools. Such scans may be recommended solely upon necessity but they will not be required in most cases.

Why Multiple Brain Scans Matter

In many instances, repeat CT scans will be recommended to trace the progression of a brain hemorrhage and make sure it has been controlled.

Multiple scans are recommended for babies at risk, even if no evidence of a brain trauma is present. Such babies at high risk are premature babies, for example. Multiple CT scans can provide information about brain bleeding, as well as brain swelling – two conditions that will require emergency care.

After the acute phase of management is completed, MRI scans may be recommended. The MRI scan can detect microscopic bleeds (microhemorrhages) and brain scarring that will not be evident through CT scanning. Thus, MRI imaging can provide information about the resolution of the imaging and the likelihood of permanent brain damage stemming from it.

When should a Scan Occur?

MRI equipment is so sensitive that it can detect signs of brain damage 12 to 24 hours after birth. This is the period during which the start of the diagnostic process is recommended for babies at risk.

Brain damage can be diagnosed in premature babies within 24 hours of their birth.

If a brain bleed has occurred, it will be evident right away through the use of CT scanning technology. A physician will have to decide when to use imaging technology and what equipment will provide the most information about the newborn’s condition.

Diagnosing Birth Brain Injuries
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