Are Birth Injuries and Epilepsy Connected?

The condition of epilepsy in children, which is characterized by unpredictable, recurring seizures, can occur due to a number of different causes. For instance, brain damage resulting from trauma at birth, including lack of oxygen to the brain or a severe brain infection can lead to the onset of epilepsy.

According to Paul Carney, pediatric neurologist at the University of Florida, “Children that are born prematurely or have very difficult births can have brain injuries that cause seizures during the first weeks of life.” Carney further states, “The good news is that a lot of these children that have mild brain injury will outgrow their seizures in the first month. However, a small percentage will unfortunately go on to develop difficult-to-treat seizures that can be lifelong.”

Pediatric epilepsy can also occur as a result of abnormal development of the brain, potentially caused by trauma, maternal exposure to toxins, or a contributing genetic condition. When a genetic issue negatively affects the formation of the brain and its functioning, seizures may be a visible symptom of additional problems. According to Tallie Baram, who studies pediatric epilepsy at the University of California, Irvine, “Seizures can be the tip of the iceberg of a serious brain disorder.”

In some cases, the cause of pediatric seizures is not known

Pediatric epilepsy does not have one single cause. The majority of children with epilepsy (50% to 75%) will eventually experience complete seizure remission. A higher chance of remission is present when seizure frequency is low, no foundational neurological deficits are present, and the child responds well to anti-seizure medication.

Nuchal cord (the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck) can lead to Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) – a neonatal condition caused by the deprivation of oxygen and blood flow to the baby’s brain. This condition can lead to cerebral palsy and in some cases, epilepsy

The most common motor disability condition among children is cerebral palsy. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that 1 in 323 children have cerebral palsy. However, when a child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, there is sometimes one or more other co-occurring or associated medical conditions the child also develops. Epilepsy is one of these potential conditions.

Co-occurring conditions with cerebral palsy

Nearly 50% of all children with cerebral palsy will experience some type of co-occurring condition. The most common of these conditions is epilepsy. It is a disorder involving hyperactivity between the brain cells resulting in recurring, unprovoked seizures. Some individuals experience full-fledged convulsions. Others may simply gaze into space for a short period of time.

The CDC cites researchers at the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, stating that 6 in 10 children with cerebral palsy experienced another developmental disability as well. From a sample population of eight-year-olds in four states (Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, and Wisconsin) with cerebral palsy, approximately:

  • 40% had an intellectual disability
  • 35% had epilepsy
  • 25% had both an intellectual disability and epilepsy
  • 15% had vision impairment

It is important to remember that epileptic seizures have the potential to inflict serious injuries, brain damage, and even sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), a cause of death that about 1 in 1000 individuals fall victim to each year. If a doctor provides inadequate medical care or is responsible for poor planning related to required care and a child incurs cerebral palsy as a result, the doctor can be held liable for medical malpractice.

Determining medical malpractice during birth

The process of giving birth can turn into an urgent medical situation in some cases requiring prompt and effective response from the birthing team. A medical professional may need to make a calculated, yet risky decision in order to do save the life of your newborn or prevent any further damage to his or her health. However, if the process of your labor and delivery were free from complications and your newborn suffered birth injuries nevertheless, medical negligence may be the cause.

On the other hand, if during delivery the doctor fails to act with the necessary speed to address an urgent medical condition with the infant or mother, he or she or the medical facility may be held liable for any resulting birth injuries. A specific example of this can occur when the baby is suffering from oxygen deprivation in the womb and the doctor fails to perform a timely C-section, something which can lead to brain damage in the baby.

The Memphis birth injury attorneys at Bailey & Greer, PLLC, can work with a variety of medical professionals, including neurosurgeons, neurologists, and other doctors to investigate brain injury cases. If your baby has suffered a brain injury due to medical malpractice, we can fight on your behalf to help you secure the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation about your case, call us today at 901-680-9777, or fill out our contact form. We offer our legal representation services to clients in Memphis, Jackson, and throughout West Tennessee.