Common Symptoms and Effects of Brain Injury Caused by Medical Malpractice

We recently wrote a blog on 20 Facts About Brain Injury. This week, we continue the discussion about brain injury and provide an overview of common symptoms that result from such injuries.

Clients Suffering from Brain Injuries Resulting from Medical Error Require Advice from Medical Malpractice Lawyers

As mentioned in our previous brain injury blog, we are referring to brain injuries resulting from medical error, negligence, or malpractice, rather than brain injuries resulting from a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall, or other accident. These other types of brain injuries are usually referred to as traumatic brain injuries and clients suffering from such injuries are represented by personal injury lawyers.

Clients suffering from brain injuries resulting from medical error or negligence require advice from medical malpractice lawyers who have many years of experience representing clients injured by negligent health care professionals.

Brain Injuries and Medical Malpractice

Brain injuries due to medical malpractice can affect babies, infants, older children, and adults. Generally, brain injuries are caused by different factors for each of these groups.

Babies and Brain Injury

Brain injuries affecting babies occur most often during pregnancy or labour and delivery as oxygen deprivation in babies is a large factor in brain injury and there are many ways for a baby to be deprived of oxygen at this critical time. This is the most common cause of cerebral palsy because of medical malpractice.

Lack of oxygen at birth (also known as perinatal hypoxic insult, hypoxia or perinatal apshyxia) and ischemia (lack of blood flow) can be caused or affected by several things, including:

  • Compression of the umbilical cord or other umbilical cord problems;
  • A placental insufficiency problem;
  • Baby stuck in birth canal;
  • Baby’s airways blocked by mucous or meconium and not cleared quickly;
  • Placental abruption (where a mother’s placenta partially or completely separates from her uterus before the baby is born);
  • Intrauterine growth restriction or IUGR (not enough space for growth);
  • Oligohydramnios (not enough amniotic fluid);
  • Uterine rupture (a tear in the wall of the uterus, often at the site of a previous c-section)
  • High blood pressure of the mother (pre-eclampsia);
  • Breeched baby;
  • Group B streptococcus that isn’t treated with antibiotics; or
  • Improper administration of an epidural.

Brain injuries caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain are sometimes referred to as anoxic brain injuries or hypoxic-ischemic brain injuries. The short-term symptoms of injuries around the time of delivery include neonatal/perinatal depression (limp and not breathing), seizures, and other organ dysfunction. They often result in hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) or Neonatal Encephalopathy (NE), meaning dysfunction of the newborn brain.

In addition to lack of oxygen at birth, brain damage can also be caused while a mother is still pregnant through untreated maternal infections such as intrauterine infections including rubella and herpes.

Brain damage can also be caused by physical trauma during labour and delivery, including:

  • Excessive pulling; or
  • Abnormal use of forceps, vacuum-extraction tool, instead of immediate emergency c section; and
  • Difficulties during labour.

Infants, Older Children, or Adults and Brain Injury

Brain injuries caused post-birth resulting from medical error or medical malpractice are sometimes referred to as acquired brain injuries (ABI).

Common causes of brain injury resulting from medical malpractice in infants, older children, or adults include:

  • Radiology errors;
  • Medication errors;
  • Surgical errors;
  • Anesthesia errors;
  • Emergency room errors; and
  • Hospital errors;

In addition, delay in diagnosis or misdiagnosis of the following can result in brain injury:

  • Tumours;
  • Diabetes;
  • Insulin shock;
  • Heart attack or cardiac arrest;
  • Blood clot;
  • Meningitis or other serious infections leading to sepsis or toxic shock;
  • Encephalitis (inflammation or swelling of the brain); and
  • Internal bleeding.

Oftentimes brain injuries in adults due to medical malpractice are caused by some sort of trauma to the brain, a lack of oxygenated blood to the brain, hypoglycemia (low blood sugars), or increased intercranial pressure (pressure on the brain eg: due to swelling).

Symptoms and Effects of Brain Injury Caused by Medical Malpractice

A brain injury can have a wide range of both physical and psychological effects. Some of these effects may appear immediately after the event that caused the injury, whereas others may not appear until days or weeks afterwards, and sometimes even later.

Effects of Brain Injury in Babies

Oxygen deprivation at birth causing brain injury can result in serious, permanent, life-altering conditions for the child, including:

  • Cerebral Palsy;
  • Cognitive disorders, including intellectual delay, developmental disability, and learning disabilities;
  • Autism;
  • Symptoms that mimic Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD);
  • Sleep disorders;
  • Seizures;
  • Behavioural problems; and
  • Emotional problems (including anger issues, anxiety, and depression).

Effects of Brain Injury on Older Children or Adults

The effects that acquired brain injuries have on older children or adults will depend on whether the brain injury is mild or severe.

Mild brain injuries can result in cognitive problems such as:

  • Headaches;
  • Memory problems;
  • Difficulty paying attention; and
  • Mood swings.

Such cognitive problems are often overlooked, or, in many cases, individuals suffering from the above may not realize these symptoms are a result of a brain injury.

Severe brain injuries can result in more significant problems including:

  • Coma;
  • Impairment of higher-level cognitive functions;
  • Limited or no use of arms or legs;
  • Abnormal speech;
  • Language issues; and
  • Emotional problems.

Compensation Available

Babies, children, and adults affected by brain injury due to medical negligence or error (or their families) may have grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in order to secure the compensation needed to cover the ongoing costs of caring for their injured child or adult family member.

Damages will be awarded in recognition of the injuries suffered. Damages may also be awarded for loss of independence, wage losses suffered as a result of caring for an injured child, as well as future care costs.

If you have questions about the medical care you received, or if you suspect that something out of the ordinary or abnormal may have occurred, contact the respected and highly knowledgeable Toronto medical malpractice lawyers at Sommers Roth & Elmaleh. We have been involved in many precedent setting decisions, and have a proven track record of success.   Call us at 1-416-961-1212 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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