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What Are the Causes of Infant Brain Injuries?

What Are the Causes of Infant Brain Injuries?The brain is a fragile organ, but no one is more fragile or susceptible to brain damage than infants. Their skulls are soft, malleable, and easily injured should something damage the head. The causes for head injuries are many, and can have an array of outcomes for the child. An injury may cause long-term disabilities like cerebral palsy or brain damage. It is important to do everything possible to keep infants safe from hits to the head, falling, car accidents, or anything that would jolt their brain or skull.

Babies are especially susceptible to traumatic brain injuries, according to research published by the National Institutes for Health (NIH), because “the infant skull is less rigid, and open sutures function as joints, allowing for a small degree of movement in response to a mechanical stress.” This helps a newborn pass through the birth canal more safely, but it also leaves the brain vulnerable to shaking and sharp knocks to the head. Also, a child’s head is quite large and heavy in relation to the rest of its body, more so than an adult’s head. This influences the center of their gravity, making  small children more likely to topple over or run headfirst into objects, and sustain injury.

Common causes of childhood head and brain injuries

Statistics show that infants commonly sustain head injuries from falls they suffer at home, car crashes, or at the playground. There are also instances of non-traumatic causes, like meningitis or stroke. Following is a list of the most common causes of infant brain injuries:

Medical malpractice: Unfortunately, many brain injuries sustained by babies are caused by some sort of medical malpractice that occurred during their birth. Per NIH, “Traumatic brain injuries [TBIs] can occur during the delivery process. This is especially true if the obstetrician or doctor has to manipulate the head with their hands or forceps to help deliver the baby. TBIs during deliveries can also happen if the baby is suffering from any fetal distress, such as losing oxygen to the brain.” Medical malpractice during the delivery process can lead to short-term and long-term disabilities for a child such as cerebral palsy, sleeping disorders, sensitivity to light, and behavioral and emotional problems.

Car accidents: During a car accident, people’s heads are often jolted with sudden force in one or multiple directions. This is extremely dangerous for infants, as they have weak neck muscles that cannot support their relatively heavy heads. This can lead to a traumatic brain injury and permanent damage.

Abuse: Also called intentional head injury or abusive head trauma, shaken baby syndrome (SBS) is one of the most common forms of infant abuse. SBS happens when an adult violently shakes a baby, and the damage can occur in only a matter of seconds. This sort of abuse usually happens when a parent or caregiver is frustrated or angry with the baby, usually because the baby may not stop crying. Symptoms of SBS include lethargy, irritability, vomiting, decreased appetite, and bruising on the arms or chest.

Falls: Falls are the most common way a child suffers from brain injury, including being dropped by a parent, or a baby falling off a sofa, bed, down the stairs, or off his or her own two feet. Infant falls can cause bleeding in or around the brain, SBS, concussions, and skull fractures.

Who is liable for my baby’s brain injury during labor and delivery?

If your infant was injured during the birthing process, whether due to oxygen deprivation or injury from a doctor using his or her instruments incorrectly, then you may be eligible to file a claim against the doctor or the hospital that caused the injuries.

Other examples of medical malpractice during labor include:

  • Improper use of obstetrical medical instruments
  • Unreasonable delay in ordering a C-section
  • Failure to perform necessary tests
  • Inadequate monitoring of the fetus
  • Failure to recognize signs of distress

If someone else dropped your baby or injured your child in some way, like shaking them, you may file a claim against that individual.

As parents, we want to do everything we can to make sure our babies can grow and thrive in a safe, healthy environment. Unfortunately, sometimes that choice is taken from us when a doctor or medical professional performing the delivery misuses their instruments or performs poorly. Even if the delivery goes smoothly, keeping our children safe is an ongoing challenge. Consider using helmets, certified baby seats and seat belts, along with baby-proofing your home with locks and child-gates.

As much as we try, however, sometimes another’s negligence is impossible to predict or avoid, and if you find yourself and your child dealing with one of these injuries, it is a good idea to contact an experienced lawyer to help secure the compensation to which you are entitled. At Harris Lowry Manton LLP, our medical malpractice and catastrophic injury attorneys want to help you and your child. To set up an appointment, call us at our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847 or our Savannah office at 912-417-3774. You can also use our contact page.


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