For many years, it has been assumed that the primary cause of brain injuries at birth was oxygen deprivation or doctor error. While oxygen deprivation and doctor error can certainly lead to brain injuries, a new report suggests that brain injuries at birth are more complex, and can have many causes.
Brain Injuries at Birth: New Research
Updating a document published in 2003, new research titled Neonatal Encephalopathy and Neurologic Outcome highlights the complex nature of brain injuries among newborns. New research in diagnosis and treatment of prenatal conditions, as well as complications of labor and delivery are helping healthcare providers understand the complex nature of brain injuries, causes, and treatment options.
According to research from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, brain injuries occur in approximately three out of every 1,000 full-term births. Of these cases, only about half are linked to oxygen deprivation. Further, in many of these cases, an underlying complication or condition occurring long before labor was linked to the oxygen deprivation, or was thought to exaggerate the problem.
New Research and Cerebral Palsy
In addition to the new research highlighting the importance of early detection of pregnancy or birth complications, the report also has implications for cerebral palsy. The original report in 2003 indicated that less than 10 percent of children with diagnosed cerebral palsy showed signs of asphyxia at birth. The new research report suggests that absent certain clear indicators at birth, brain injuries leading to cerebral palsy are likely caused by complications outside the scope of labor and delivery.
Such complications may include:
- Maternal health problems, such as hypothyroidism
- Genetic factors
- Abnormalities with the placenta
- Significant bleeding during pregnancy
- Fetal membrane infections
- Stroke during labor
While the new research does not offer clear cut solutions for preventing brain injuries at birth, medical experts hope that it will help healthcare providers understand the complex nature of brain injuries, be more diligent in identifying risk factors, and be better situated to help families affected by brain injuries.
What Research Means for Parents
Because new research identifies the complex nature of brain injuries at birth, parents now have more information to help them understand that such injuries can have many causes. Whether caused by an undiagnosed prenatal condition, doctor error, or other factors, brain injuries at birth can be devastating for the infant and his or her family. Ongoing research is extremely helpful in identifying the potential causes, risk factors, and treatment options for brain injuries.
Research is limited, however, in identifying the individual factors in brain injuries at birth, as well as identifying potential violations in the medical standards of care for an individual case. In many cases, parents can benefit from individualized support to help ensure that their legal rights and the well being of their family are protected.
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