Neurological Birth Injuries

Neurological Birth Injuries refer to injuries to the brain and/or spinal cord in infants for one of several reasons, including:

  • Mechanical trauma or significant deprivation of oxygen that took place during labor, delivery and post-delivery handling of the infant.
  •  During the administration of resuscitation measures for a compromised infant. 

Cerebral Palsy, Erb’s Palsy, perinatal asphyxia, and hypoxia with concomitant brain damage (hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy) are common conditions associated with neurologic birth injuries.

Symptoms of Neurological Birth Injuries

The symptoms vary widely, depending upon which part of the nervous system is affected and the consequential neurological condition that the baby is suffering from following injury.  Common symptoms may include but may not be limited to:

  • Delay in sucking for more than 24 – 48 hours.
  •  Vomiting or spitting every after feeding.
  • Seizure
  • Abnormal reflex and motor responses.
  • Difficulty in breathing, especially those who suffered from meconium aspiration during birth trauma.
  • Newly delivered infants with neurological birth injuries often present with low APGAR scores.

Motor impairments may be significant, including: stiffness or difficulty in motor movement; spastic movements, tremors; low muscle tone; involuntary movement; poor or absent coordinated muscle movement; paralysis of extremities or certain parts of the body; and asymmetrical movements of extremities.

DIAGNOSTICS

When there is a high degree of suspicion for neurological birth injuries, the following tests or measures may be performed to achieve early diagnosis.

  • Blood Tests. Arterial Blood Gas
  • Thorough History Intake and Neurological Examination
  • Neuro Imaging: CT Scan or MRI

Nevertheless, the extent of the permanent injury may still be likely to unfold through the developmental stages of the child.  Developmental milestones have to be closely monitored and further tests, such as hearing tests, visual tests, and neurological examinations have to be performed at the appropriate time, as directed by the physician. It is important to have a meaningful Q and A with Your Doctor at the onset of a neurological birth injury and during all follow up appointments.

Other Possible Conditions?

Cerebral Palsy.  Not all cases of cerebral palsy are secondary to neurological birth trauma.  In fact, in a considerable number of cases, the cause is unknown.  Several tests may be conducted after delivery to determine if the condition is most likely due to neurological birth injury, namely:  very low APGAR score, severe pH abnormality, and involvement of other organs, such as the kidney.

Erb’s Palsy is a paralysis of the arm due to the damage in the arm’s main nerves as a result of traumatic delivery.  This may occur in infants who accidentally suffered from clavicular fracture during or after delivery.

TREATMENT OPTIONS AND OUTCOME

The treatment and management largely depends on the affected area of the brain, spinal cord or major nerves, as well as, the nature of injury and the symptoms manifested.

In general, management of neurological birth injuries should take a multi-disciplinary approach.  Included in the team would be a pediatric neurologist, a neuropsychologist, a physical therapist, a cognitive therapist and perhaps, other medical professionals.  

Though initial treatment for the specific injuries often helps stabilize the condition, long-term supportive therapy is generally a must in the management of neurological birth injuries. For children with structural dysfunction, a surgical procedure may be performed and followed by a rehabilitation program. A good rehabilitation program might help improve the condition in children, especially for those who present with motor impairment or disabilities. A good rehabilitation program and support system may prevent the occurrence of complications.  Devices may also be employed to help address the motor problems of the child. 

The injuries may be permanent. However, measures may be taken to avoid further complications and to help ensure optimal motor, psychosocial, emotional and cognitive functions of the child. Psychotherapy and counseling for child, the immediate family and primary caretakers may also be necessary to ensure that the child is well accepted and taken care of.

It is important to recognize that medications and medical procedures are associated with benefits and risks that should be discussed with your physician. It is important to recognize that all information contained on this website cannot be considered to be specific medical diagnosis, medical treatment, or medical advice. As always, you should consult with a physician regarding any medical condition. Your Health Access disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.