Written by Jeff Meyer on 10 Sep 2015
According to the authors of a research study recently appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine, cerebral palsy diagnoses are more frequently the result of one or more prenatal conditions, rather than of trauma or injury at the time of birth. The doctors behind this new study reviewed the root causes of cerebral palsy affecting a group of single-birth infants born at 35 weeks or later, which is the cohort known to account for the majority of such diagnoses.
Findings Address Underlying Causes of Condition
Researchers from the Children’s National Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health argue that approximately 8 out of every 10 cerebral palsy cases are attributable to a number of antenatal conditions or factors and that fewer than 1 out of 10 such diagnoses stem from labor and delivery injury or subsequent asphyxia. Thus, the assertion is that birth defects and maternal variables are much more influential in an eventual diagnosis of cerebral palsy than is birth trauma, something many have long believed to be a substantial contributor to this condition.
Several Pivotal Variables Identified
The directors of this most recent study on the underlying causes of cerebral palsy have opined that a series of specific birth defects, prenatal factors and maternal afflictions tend to contribute to eventual cases of cerebral palsy. Among the most influential of these are placental infections, fetal thrombotic vasculopathy, a range of birth defects and fetal growth restriction. Genetic propensity for the condition was also found to play a significant role. Given their identification of these concerns, the study’s authors recommend increased clinical investigation into the realms of teratology, neuroscience, genetics and genomics and their relationship to cerebral palsy.
Birth Trauma and Cerebral Palsy
There can be no mistaking the fact that the research study cited above falls strongly into the camp of those who believe that the role of birth trauma in cerebral palsy diagnoses is relatively small in comparison to other underlying causes. However, the startling number of children annually who sustain lasting harm due to negligence at the time of labor and delivery must never be disregarded. Birth injuries are indisputably to blame for an unacceptable number of cerebral palsy cases each year, with some of the most common physician acts and omissions including failure to properly monitor and respond to signs of fetal distress, improper administration of induction medications, botched handling of shoulder dystocia presentations, delayed identification of placental abruptions and cord entanglements and failure to timely call for Caesarian intervention.
Prioritizing a Comprehensive Understanding of Cerebral Palsy
Underscoring the well-known role of birth injuries in cases of cerebral palsy does not minimize the importance of research into prenatal factors, which could be to blame in a large number of diagnoses. Taking an all-inclusive approach to research may be the best way to foster early-stage identification of the condition and possibly even active prevention in some situations. The key is to recognize that birth trauma can and does have a devastating effect on a tragic number of children and families and not to undermine their ability to fight for justice as well as the compensation necessary to help their loved ones live the most fulfilling lives possible.