October 12, 2010

Low Apgar Scores At Birth Linked To Cerebral Palsy

by Levin & Perconti

A recent study conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health found that individuals with low Apgar scores at birth were more likely to be later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The study suggests that the link between low Apgar scores and cerebral palsy is related to the damage caused to the motor control centers of the brain. This damage can occur during pregnancy, during childbirth, or even after birth.

To determine a baby’s Apgar score, the baby's muscle tone, heart rate, muscle reflex, skin coloration, and respiration are evaluated. Each factor is scored on a scale of 0 to 2, with 2 being the best score. The scores are added together and the resulting Apgar score ranges from zero to 10. This test is generally done at one and five minutes after birth, and may be repeated later if the score is and remains low. Scores 3 and below are generally regarded as critically low, 4 to 6 fairly low, and 7 to 10 generally normal.

Cerebral palsy is caused by an injury to the infant’s brain that can occur before, during or shortly after birth. Exposures to radiation and infection during pregnancy have lead to cerebral palsy. Examples of these infections include rubella, cytomegalovirus, herpes, and toxoplasmosis. Asphyxia (lack of oxygen) before birth, hypoxia of the brain, and birth trauma during labor and delivery also cause injury to the infant’s brain, which can lead to cerebral palsy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2 to 3 children in 1,000 are affected by brain injuries leading to cerebral palsy. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has estimated that about 800,000 individuals in the United States have cerebral palsy. Babies with cerebral palsy often have an irregular posture and may be born with other birth defects, such as spinal curvature, a small jawbone, or a small head. However, some babies born with cerebral palsy do not show obvious signs and symptoms right after birth.

Our Chicago birth injury lawyers at Levin & Perconti have decades of experience fighting for victims whose children have suffered severe damage following complications from childbirth. All doctors need to be aware that every necessary step should be taken to ensure that the child has the best chance possible of being born healthy. Too often medical professionals make preventable childbirth mistakes—from not acting quickly enough to failing to take appropriate actions at all. In any case, the innocent children and their families have legal rights to help in those situations. If you know of a victim, be sure to contact a birth injury attorney to begin the process of redress and reform.