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Strokes that occur at or near the time of birth are often overlooked as a significant contributing factor to cerebral palsy.  Perinatal stroke is a known cause of long-term neurological impairment. These strokes are caused by a disruption in blood flow to a major cerebral artery, resulting in an area of damaged cerebral tissues. The question that needs to be asked is: was the perinatal stroke the preventable result of medical negligence? Medical negligence during the labor and delivery can cause the newborn to suffer a stroke and the resulting damage can be brain damage or even death.

There are several different mechanisms during labor and delivery that can cause a perinatal stroke:

  • Trauma by mechanical delivery. The use of forceps or a vacuum during delivery can cause damage to the cerebral arteries which can cause a newborn stroke. Reports suggest that trauma by mechanical delivery may account for 20 percent of all causes of childhood stroke.
  • Excessive use of Pitocin. Excessive labor forces can cause a cerebral ischemic injury. Drugs commonly used to induce labor are associated with excessive uterine activity that may result in these perinatal injuries.
  • Direct trauma to an intracranial vessel. This can occur if there is a direct trauma to the newborn’s head during delivery, i.e. if a physician uses excessive force on the newborn’s head during the delivery.
  • Trauma from head compression due to maternal fetal size mismatch. A disparity between the size of the fetus and the maternal pelvis can result in increased uterine activity during labor which can cause trauma.

Newborns that suffer a perinatal stroke usually seem like healthy babies after birth. It is usually within three days of delivery that the newborn’s condition begins to deteriorate. Conditions to be aware of are seizures, episodes of not breathing, lethargy, irritability or poor feeding. It is critical for health care providers to understand and recognize abnormal signs and symptoms associated with perinatal strokes in the hours after birth and closely watch at-risk infants. A delay in diagnosing a cerebral injury due to perinatal stroke can lead to further damage to the newborn. Contact the trial attorneys at Rapoport Law Offices if you believe your child was injured as a result of medical negligence.

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