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

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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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Ohio Birth Injuries Spinal Cord Injury Levels of Injury

On average, between 6 and 8 out of 1,000 live births result in some sort of injury to the child. Birth related spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are tragic and have life-long implications. In most cases, theses injuries are the result of medical malpractice. Understanding how these injuries happen and the effects that injury location have on the child can better equip you to decide how you wish to move forward in seeking compensation.

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Spine Basics

The spine is the bony structure in our backs that is made up of about 33 individual bones called vertebrae. This structure encloses and protects the spinal column, while allowing individual nerve pairs to leave the spine at various points and branch out into other parts of the body. The spine is divided up into regions consisting of:

Elk & Elk
  • cervical spine – consisting of 7 vertebrae
  • thoracic spine – consisting of 12 vertebrae
  • lumbar spine – consisting of 5 vertebrae
  • sacrum– consisting of 5 fused sacral vertebrae
  • coccyx – consisting of up to 4, usually fused vertebrae

Each of these vertebrae are separated by discs called intervertebral discs. These discs provide space between the vertebrae that enables the nerves to exit the spine and enervate other systems, such as the:

  • cardiovascular
  • respiratory system
  • nervous system
  • musculoskeletal system
  • integumentary system (skin)
  • endocrine system
  • digestive system
  • urinary system
  • reproductive system

As the spinal cord flows down the spine, nerves exit, so there are more nerves present in the upper spine than there are in the lower spine.

The Higher The Injury, The More Serious The Consequences

Between 60 and 75 percent of birth related SCIs occur in the cervical spine, according to Boston’s Children’s Hospital. Because this area houses the most nerves, the entire body may be disabled by injuries to the cervical spinal cord. These nerves can affect whether you can:

  • breathe
  • speak
  • swallow
  • move your arms, hands, legs and feet
  • control your bladder and bowel functions

Injuries to the thoracic spine are generally less severe than those of the cervical spine. An injury to the thoracic spine may result in:

  • paraplegia
  • balance
  • reduced control of bladder and bowel function

Injuries to the lumbar spine are less severe than those of the thoracic and cervical spine. The injured person may be able to walk, but have some loss of feeling and function from the hips down. They may also have little control over bladder and bowel functions.

How Do These Injuries Occur?

SCIs are can be prevented. The top causes of birth related SCIs are:

  • failing to diagnose an emergency birth situation
  • failing to diagnose spina bifida
  • failing to properly use forceps to assist the infant out of the birth canal
  • failing to properly use vacuum suction to assist the infant out of the birth canal

Failing to diagnose an emergent situation during the birthing process can lead to undue traction or rotational force on the infant’s spine, leading to partial or complete tearing of the spinal column.

If an infant is not diagnosed with spina bifida, a condition in which the spine does not fully enclose the spinal nerves, mishandling of the infant during birth can exacerbate spinal issues.

Birth related SCIs can affect the quality of life for both the child and the rest of the family. If medical negligence is present, the doctor should provide compensation for the pain, suffering and medical costs for the remainder of the child’s life.