March 16, 2012

Mystery Birth Injury Misdiagnosed as Cerebral Palsy

by Levin & Perconti

Precision is paramount in legal arguments. For example, when our Illinois birth injury attorneys are writing a complaint which initiates a lawsuit or making a closing argument in front of a jury, we are very clear about how a certain course of conduct by a medical professional led to a certain injury suffered by a child or mother. These claims are made based on evidence of what happened in the situation and medical knowledge from experts on the consequences of those actions. Living in the legal world of very specific, definitive, and clear arguments sometimes imparts the impression that every medical condition or outcome can be explained in every case.

That is not always true.

Each Chicago birth injury attorney at our firm appreciates that there is still much that the entire medical community does not know about how certain injuries arise or even what certain injuries are. The medical community has made enormous strides in the last century to identify harms and to prevent them. Patients can rightly expect that those understandings will be applied in their case to prevent harm where possible. Failure to do so is medical malpractice and perhaps necessitates a birth injury lawsuit. However, there remain many medical mysteries than cannot yet be understood.

A story in the Huffington Post this week delves into one of those mysterious cases. Nine-year old Jason Egan suffered from some sort of developmental problem that is baffling researchers and medical experts. At first the child was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Like many children with CP, the Jason cannot walk or talk. Considering that cerebral palsy is an umbrella term that refers to a range of movement disorders, Jason’s developmental problems at first seemed consistent with a child who had cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is not a progressive condition. That means that the problems facing the sufferer will not be worse over time but will instead remain constant over a lifetime.

That is where Jason’s condition differs. The boy’s condition continues to change over time. Brain scans of the child at the time he was six first suggested that something was unique in his case. Amazingly, the doctors discovered that the child’s brain at the time of the scan at six years old was much smaller than similar scans taken on him earlier in his life. The shrinking brain indicated that cerebral palsy was a misdiagnosis. To pinpoint exactly what was going on, doctors conducted tests for various neurological disorders. What they found, essentially, was nothing. The boy did not seem to be suffering from any condition that was known to affect the brain.

The doctor summarized by noting that “there is not one test he hasn’t had done. He doesn’t qualify for cerebral palsy, because the disease is progressing. The bottom line is, I don’t know yet and I hope we will figure out what’s happening to him.”

In a bit of good news, Jason’s latest brain scan shows that the shrinking may have stopped. His brain is the same size now as it was one year ago. While this is a relief for the family, it doesn’t help in figuring out what the problem actually is. Researchers are now looking at the child’s DNA to determine if there are any mutations which might explain what is going on. Depending on what is found, it may ultimately prove incredibly helpful in scientists’ efforts to understand how each gene interacts in the body.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Cerebral Palsy Primer: What It Is & When It Arises

Birth Injury Lawsuit Filed After Child Born with Cerebral Palsy