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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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Neurological Complications

Infant brain injuries often result from physical trauma, a lack of oxygen, or bleeding. Neurological complications are possible with or without prompt treatment. In a study of using controlled hypothermia on infants with brain trauma, Packard Children’s Hospital reported that birth asphyxia, or lack of oxygen, accounts for 25 percent of neonatal mortality. Any level of oxygen deprivation can be severely damaging to an underdeveloped brain.

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Motor Problems

Nerve fibers passing through vulnerable parts of the brain can easily be affected by trauma. The more extensive the injury, the higher the likelihood that muscle control will be adversely affected. Premature infants are more likely to sustain cranial injuries that can lead to long term motor problems, because the softer bone tissue can change shape, increase cranial pressure, and affect blood flow. Fragile blood vessels can break and subsequently restrict blood flow to areas not impacted by the initial injury.

Elk & Elk

The region surrounding the brain’s ventricles are particularly susceptible to damage that can adversely affect motor fibers traveling to the legs. There are also other motor fibers in this area. Serving various muscle groups, they can affect other neurological functions if damaged. Common brain injuries in infants that can affect motor function include periventricular leukomalacia, or death of white matter cells by the lateral ventricles from reduced blood flow and oxygen. It often results in impairments to leg movement. Intraventricular hemorrhage, or bleeding into the brain’s open spaces, is another serious injury with the potential for complications.

Cerebral Palsy

Defined as an injury during brain development that affects the transmission of nerve impulses, cerebral palsy (CP) is characterized by difficulties in coordinating muscle movement. These impairments may not be evident at birth. Sometimes they are more obvious over time. It is possible for a mild motor abnormality to improve and resolve. If it persists, CP may be diagnosed if there are issues with voluntary muscle control, a neurological injury has been diagnosed or suspected, and the injury, which must occur during development, doesn’t worsen or improve.

Cerebral palsy varies in severity. The symptoms include variable muscle tone, stiffness, exaggerated reflexes, lack of coordination, and tremors or involuntary movements. In some cases, movements may be slow and writhing. Children with CP often don’t reach motor skills milestones such as sitting up or crawling when expected to. An infant may drag its leg while crawling or reach with only one hand. Drooling, sucking, and swallowing problems are early signs as well.

Other Potential Neurological Complications

  • Seizures: Infants with brain injuries at birth often have seizures. These can abate or develop into long term conditions such as epilepsy, which requires long term treatment plans that include medication and even surgery.
  • Language impairments: A brain injury can lead to complications such as trouble understanding, speaking, or remembering language. One may have trouble with logic, sequencing, and controlling their right side, especially if the left side of the brain has been injured.
  • Cognitive impairments: Visual-spatial, visual memory, and thinking capacity deficits are common with right side injuries, as are deficits in creativity, music perception, and control over left side body movement.

A diffuse brain injury, on the other hand, can span an even greater range of difficulties. Confusion, fatigue, thinking skills, and a reduced attention span are complications a person may experience. Therefore, complications from a birth brain injury can vary based on the extent, location, and treatment of the initial problem.