Birth Injury Blog

At What Age Can Cerebral Palsy Be Diagnosed?

Posted By Beam & Raymond || 28-Jun-2017

Cerebral palsy refers to permanent movement disorders that can result from birth injury, and particularly from brain damage that occurs during or shortly after birth. This brain damage may be caused by failures to perform a timely C-section, failures to diagnose or treat certain conditions (infections, hypoglycemia, seizures, etc.), or by other instances of negligence which results in oxygen deprivation.

Although cerebral palsy can range in severity and symptoms, it has the potential to create life-long challenges for both children and their families. This includes a number of direct and indirect expenses, including medical costs, medications, and accommodative needs. The exorbitant costs of raising a child with cerebral palsy make it important for families to take legal action when the condition could and should have been prevented if not for the negligence of a health care provider.

Beam & Raymond has cultivated national recognition for handling challenging birth injury cases, including those involving cerebral palsy. Because these cases present unique challenges both legally and emotionally, families often struggle to not only determine whether and how their child suffered a preventable birth injury and if they have a valid claim, but also what exact condition their child suffers from.

When it comes to brain injuries in infants, and especially when that brain damage results in cerebral palsy, it can take time for medical professionals to make an accurate diagnosis of a child’s condition and a prognosis as to how it will impact their lives. Unfortunately, there is no singular test to diagnose cerebral palsy, which means that parents and families can face a long and at times frustrating process. This is because most cerebral palsy diagnoses require development of the brain and continued monitoring as a child progresses through infancy.

Children with severe cases of cerebral palsy, such as spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, may be diagnosed shortly after birth, but most children will be diagnosed within the first two years. However, a diagnosis in mild cases may not be made until a child reaches three to five years of age, when the brain is fully developed. Moreover, many times a pediatrician will not use the term cerebral palsy to avoid alerting the family of a child with cerebral palsy that perhaps the injury was caused by the doctors or hospital at birth. And to further complicate matters, some pediatricians avoid the use of the term “cerebral palsy” to try to keep the family from becoming suspicious about preventable events that happened during labor.

Because the time it takes to arrive at an accurate diagnosis can vary from case to case, it can be difficult for parents who have suspicions that there is something different about their child. Often, the path to diagnosis entails long-term observation, and families may notice that children are late to develop, or that they miss certain developmental milestones. Even though a child could be a “late bloomer,” parents should still bring their concerns to a physician who can explore key indicators and conduct additional evaluations if needed. These indicators may include:

  • Missing developmental milestones such as sitting up on their own, crawling, or walking
  • Not meeting age standards for height and weight
  • Problems with a child’s reflexes or coordination
  • Abnormal posture and movement

Should there be concerns as a child grows and develops over months or even years, medical professionals and specialists may perform various tests, including imaging tests of the brain, to check for signs of damage or impairment and rule out other possible causes.

Although it may take time to arrive at an accurate diagnosis for cerebral palsy, ensuring that the condition is ultimately identified is the top priority, as doing so can help families address the unique needs of their child as they mature. Additionally, an accurate diagnosis can be important when families choose to pursue birth injury lawsuits when it is believed the condition could and should have been prevented. These lawsuits enable victims and families to hold negligent medical professionals accountable and to pursue financial compensation for their damages and future needs.

If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to a medical error, or if you suspect a possible birth injury, you can find the support and assistance you need with our Chicago birth injury lawyers at Beam & Raymond. Over the years, we have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients. This includes landmark victories and multi-million dollar recoveries in challenging cerebral palsy cases. In fact, our firm received widespread distinction after we secured a $144 million jury award on behalf of a child who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy related to birth trauma.

To speak personally with a member of our legal team about your rights and options, contact us for a FREE consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout the U.S.

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