As a parent coping with an infant with a birth injury, it’s understandable for you to be in a state of shock. You may be afraid of what the future holds for your family and worried about rising medical bills while your baby is diagnosed and treated.
Suppose your newborn is diagnosed with periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). In that case, you will benefit from understanding what periventricular leukomalacia is, the risk factors for this brain injury, and common causes. You may have legal options if medical malpractice or negligence caused your newborn’s condition. Bachus & Schanker’s Elite Litigation Group explains your legal options and how a birth injury lawyer can help.
What is periventricular leukomalacia?
Periventricular leukomalacia is a brain injury that is more common in preterm newborns but is also found in babies born at term. Autopsies of newborns show as many as three out of every four premature babies have evidence of periventricular leukomalacia. In comparison, one out of five full-term babies show signs of the condition.
Think of the brain like a blanket. Ideal blankets have good stitching and cover a solid area. When threads fray or are damaged, holes develop in the fabric, and the blanket no longer adequately contains warmth.
Periventricular leukomalacia occurs when holes in the brain fill with fluid. The holes exist because the white matter that should be there decays due to brain damage. With periventricular leukomalacia, brain damage unfortunately affects the brain’s ability to control the body. The child’s symptoms depend on the severity of their condition.
Factors increasing the risk of periventricular leukomalacia include the following:
- Gender: There’s a higher rate of periventricular leukomalacia among male infants
- Gestational diabetes: There’s a greater risk of premature birth when a woman develops gestational diabetes, and premature birth increases a newborn’s chances of developing PVL
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy: Lack of oxygen during birth can cause brain injuries, including periventricular leukomalacia. Anything increasing the risk of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, such as hypotension, increases the risk of periventricular leukomalacia.
- Infection: Neonatal infections increase the risk of periventricular leukomalacia
- Intraventricular hemorrhage: Brain bleeds may increase the risk of periventricular leukomalacia
- Low birth weight: PVL is more common in infants with a low birth weight
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms of periventricular leukomalacia include physical and cognitive symptoms. Some infants may only develop cognitive impairments, while others may have cognitive and physical impairments.
Some common symptoms of periventricular leukomalacia include the following:
- Abnormal developmental delays
- Cerebral palsy
- Cognitive developmental delays
- Issues with eye movements
- Jerky movements
- Muscle contractions
- Tight muscles
- Vision problems
- Walking on tiptoes instead of the entire foot
Infants have a higher risk of periventricular leukomalacia if there are complications during labor and delivery. Suppose the baby arrives via breech birth. Breech births have a greater risk of cord prolapse and oxygen deprivation. A higher birth weight also increases the risk of oxygen deprivation because the infant could get caught in the birth canal. Anything affecting blood flow to the brain could be a root cause.
Can medical malpractice or negligence play a role?
Medical negligence involves medical professionals making an unintentional error. Medical malpractice refers to deliberate decisions that cause harm. A medical professional guilty of medical malpractice or negligence could cause periventricular leukomalacia.
Suppose a pregnant woman reported symptoms of a potential infection. Their doctor disregarded their symptoms and failed to order tests to confirm and treat the infection. The infection triggers labor, and the mother delivers prematurely. This increases the risk of periventricular leukomalacia, and if the infant develops this condition, the mother may have a case for medical malpractice.
Treatment for periventricular leukomalacia involves managing the symptoms because brain damage is permanent. Periventricular leukomalacia is irreversible.
Common treatments for this condition include the following:
- Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy involves helping individuals gain or regain fine motor skills to perform routine tasks, such as tying shoelaces
- Physical therapy: Physical therapists use exercises to help individuals restore motor control or learn to use assistive devices
- Speech therapy: Speech therapists treat speech impediments and issues with swallowing
- Vision therapy: Eye exercises can help improve eye control
The prognosis for children with periventricular leukomalacia depends on the severity of the child’s condition and their access to effective treatment. Some children with minor periventricular leukomalacia show minor symptoms. Children with access to appropriate therapists may manage their symptoms more effectively than those without access to therapists.
What to do if you suspect medical malpractice or negligence
You may have grounds for legal action if you suffered a traumatic birth or medical malpractice or negligence that caused your child’s birth injury. Talking to a birth injury lawyer is best because your attorney can investigate your case, subpoena medical records, and interview witnesses. They understand existing case law and know how to determine if medical malpractice or negligence caused your newborn’s birth injury.
You may be consumed by your child’s needs and ongoing medical treatments. When you entrust your case to a birth injury lawyer, you ease your stress because you can have confidence knowing legal experts are protecting your legal rights while you care for your newborn.
You can help the process by documenting everything you remember about the events leading up to your newborn’s birth, things that occurred during the delivery, and post-delivery events that could be relevant. Save your medical records and bills. You should also keep copies of all bills stemming from your infant’s diagnosis.
Medical malpractice and negligence victims can seek damages through a birth injury lawsuit.
Economic damages are actual costs incurred or anticipated due to the birth injury. You may use bills, receipts, and expert calculations to determine how much to seek. Grounds for economic damages include the following:
- Childcare costs
- Lost income
- Medical expenses
- Transportation costs
It’s challenging to put a price tag on the loss of your hopes and dreams for your newborn, but non-economic damages attempt to compensate victims for the emotional toll of a birth injury. Grounds for non-economic damages include the following:
- Loss of intimate relationship
- Pain and suffering
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Although rare, there may be grounds to seek punitive damages through a medical malpractice lawsuit. Since punitive damages punish perpetrators for gross negligence, your legal team must be able to prove a medical professional took a deliberate, reckless action without concern for the wellbeing of the mother or child.
How can an experienced birth injury lawyer help?
Experienced birth injury lawyers have the legal knowledge to identify evidence of medical malpractice or negligence. These experts know what to look for when investigating a claim, and they’ll ensure they file the necessary paperwork to proceed with your claim.
Your legal team can help you calculate damages to seek, locate physical evidence, identify witnesses, and establish the link between the medical professional’s decisions and your infant’s condition. A birth injury lawyer will answer your questions so you understand your rights, what you could gain from a birth injury claim, and what to expect during the lawsuit.
Give Elite Litigation Group a call if you suspect your child suffered a birth injury
The legal team at Elite Litigation Group understands that traumatic events are devastating. That’s why we have a team of Victim Advocates working on catastrophic injury investigations. Our Victim Advocates help identify the at-fault parties responsible for birth injuries and act as a point of contact for victims.
Birth injury statistics. (2023).
Periventricular Leukomalacia. (2023).
Thekkeveedu, R. (2020). Pediatric Periventricular Leukomalacia: Epidemiology.
Thekkeveedu, R. (2020). Pediatric Periventricular Leukomalacia: Etiology.
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