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Perinatal Stroke and Medical Malpractice

Perinatal strokes may cause irreversible brain damage, leading to cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, and death. Medical malpractice is often to blame. If your child is suffering the effects of a perinatal stroke, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. Contact our experienced perinatal stroke birth injury lawyers today for a free case evaluation.

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What is a Perinatal Stroke?

A perinatal stroke is an injury to the blood vessels in the brain during the last 20 weeks of pregnancy or the first 28 days of life outside the womb. A perinatal stroke may occur as a burst blood vessel or a blockage within a vessel. 

A stroke during birth or 28 days thereafter is also known as a neonatal stroke. A stroke that occurs before birth is a fetal stroke or a prenatal stroke.

A perinatal stroke can have similar effects as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE, but it is not the same event. A stroke is a vascular injury, but HIE results from the deprivation of blood and oxygen to the entire brain. HIE is associated with an increased risk of neonatal arterial ischemic stroke.

Perinatal Stroke Statistics

According to the American Stroke Association, about 65 percent of children who suffer a perinatal stroke will experience permanent neurological effects. Perinatal strokes impact approximately one in 3,500 live births. Some studies have found a higher incidence of perinatal strokes, even as often as one in 1,100 births. One percent of children who have perinatal strokes experience recurring strokes.

While most people associate strokes with elderly adults, the journal Stroke reports that the period from birth to one week of age presents the highest stroke risk during the human lifetime. According to the report, the risk of stroke during this period is triple that of smoking adults with diabetes and hypertension.

This statistic does not mean strokes are inevitable during this period. Health care providers can dramatically reduce the risk of stroke by adhering to medical standards during pregnancy, childbirth, and the following hours and days.

Types of Perinatal Strokes

Perinatal strokes are classified according to the type of blood vessel affected—artery or vein—and the kind of injury the blood vessel suffers. Arteries carry blood from the heart to the brain, while veins carry blood back to the heart.

Ischemic Perinatal Strokes

Ischemia is a lack of blood flow to the brain, usually caused by a blood clot. The two primary types of ischemic neonatal strokes are the following:

  • Arterial ischemic stroke: This type of stroke occurs in the arteries. The carotid arteries in the front of the neck and the vertebral arteries in the back of the neck carry blood to the brain and lead to an area where the arteries branch out. Brain damage can occur within minutes when the middle branch experiences a lack of blood flow.
  • Cerebral sinovenous thrombosis: This condition occurs when a blood clot forms in the veins or sinuses of the brain and blocks drainage. The sinuses are the large veins in the brain.

Hemorrhagic Perinatal Strokes

A hemorrhagic perinatal stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, leading to bleeding in the brain. This can cause brain damage directly or lead to swelling and pressure that cause brain damage.

A periventricular venous infarction, or PVI, is a fetal hemorrhagic stroke that occurs before the 34th week of pregnancy when blood vessels deep in the brain burst and bleed into the brain. This typically damages the white matter of the brain, which controls movement. Cerebral palsy often stems from PVIs.

What Are the Warning Signs of Perinatal Strokes?

In some cases, the signs of a neonatal stroke may be apparent during the first hours of life. These strokes are known as acute symptomatic neonatal strokes. The signs can occur with neonatal arterial ischemic strokes, cerebral sinovenous thrombosis, and hemorrhagic strokes. The following symptoms shortly after birth may point to a perinatal stroke:

  • Seizures
  • Lethargy
  • Breathing problems
  • Feeding difficulties

Approximately 40 percent of perinatal strokes are detected after the neonatal period, usually as a result of the following symptoms: 

  • One side of the body develops or moves better than the other.
  • Your child shows a hand preference before the age of one.
  • Your child experiences developmental delays.

These are early symptoms of a form of cerebral palsy that impacts one side of the body, known as spastic hemiplegia, a common long-term effect of perinatal strokes. The average age at which these symptoms become known is five months. However, it often takes several months to get a perinatal stroke diagnosis, resulting in an average age of diagnosis of 12.6 months of age.

A delayed diagnosis of a stroke, even if it is years after birth, could point to a birth injury. Call our experienced perinatal stroke lawyers at (877) 374-1417 as soon as possible if your baby shows signs of a neonatal stroke, whether you notice the signs immediately after birth or later in childhood.

What Are the Long-Term Complications of a Perinatal Stroke

When a perinatal stroke is diagnosed immediately, the baby has an opportunity to receive treatment that could reduce the effects somewhat. However, the damage is already done in many cases by the time the stroke is diagnosed, especially if the diagnosis happens months or years after it occurred. The damage is usually permanent. 

Children who have experienced perinatal strokes may live with the following long-term effects:

  • Brain damage from newborn seizures
  • Epilepsy
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Speech and language difficulties
  • Deficits in processing visual and spatial information
  • Executive functioning inhibition
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder 
  • Memory problems
  • Vision problems

In the worst-case scenario, perinatal strokes can also lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, and death of the newborn child.

How Are Perinatal Strokes Diagnosed?

Perinatal strokes can only be identified and confirmed through brain imaging tests. The most definitive test is an MRI. An MRI should be used in most cases because it provides detailed images of the arteries and veins. It can confirm all types of perinatal stroke, whether it occurred recently or long ago.

Ultrasounds and CT scans can detect acute strokes in newborns, but an MRI is the gold standard. 

Your baby may also undergo laboratory testing to identify the effects of the stroke and rule out disorders that could increase the risk of recurrence. These tests include the following:

  • Echocardiogram and Electrocardiogram to check for heart problems
  • Electroencephalogram to check brain activity and evaluate the effects of seizures
  • Blood clotting tests to determine if your baby has a bleeding or blood clotting disorder
  • Lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, to test for infection or inflammation that may have precipitated the stroke

Causes and Risk Factors of Perinatal Strokes

If you are the mother of a child who suffered a perinatal stroke, you are not to blame for your child’s stroke, and there is nothing you could have done to prevent it. However, a doctor can prevent many perinatal strokes by providing quality prenatal care and making sound medical decisions during labor and delivery.

The following medical errors increase the risk of a perinatal stroke and, in some cases, are the direct cause:

All of these medical errors may constitute medical malpractice. A delayed diagnosis of a perinatal stroke may further harm your child.

What Are the Treatment Options for Neonatal Stroke?

The treatment options for a neonatal stroke vary depending on when the stroke is detected. Treatment for a neonatal stroke differs significantly from stroke treatment in older children or adults.

Acute Symptomatic Neonatal Stroke Treatment

When a stroke is detected immediately or shortly after birth, treatment usually focuses on protecting the brain. Such measures include the following:

  • Working to prevent seizures
  • Reducing fevers
  • Treating infections with antibiotics
  • Addressing dehydration
  • Increasing low blood sugar
  • Improving blood flow by administering blood thinners

While opening a blocked blood vessel is the standard treatment in adults after a stroke, it is not an option in infants during the neonatal period.

Long-Term Neonatal Stroke Treatment

When a perinatal stroke is detected months or years after it occurs, there is no opportunity for doctors to provide interventions to minimize brain damage. The damage is irreversible. Treatment will focus on the symptoms and complications resulting from the stroke and may include the following:

  • Assistive devices to address physical handicaps and movement disorders like cerebral palsy
  • Brain remapping training to use neuroplasticity to improve language development and movement skills
  • Physical therapy
  • Medication to alleviate seizures
  • Speech therapy for language and swallowing disorders
  • Mental health therapy for the family, if needed
  • Vocational and occupational therapy as your child gets older

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to form new pathways through repetitive activities when the part of the brain that controls a function is damaged.

The earlier a perinatal stroke is diagnosed, the more success the child may experience in improving movement and language skills. A language study found that neuroplasticity in very young children allows them to use the brain’s right hemisphere to perform language functions normally performed in the left.

Can You Sue for Perinatal Stroke?

You may have grounds to sue a doctor for negligence over your child’s perinatal stroke if you can prove it resulted from medical errors. The following parties may be liable for your child’s perinatal stroke:

  • An obstetrician
  • A midwife
  • A nurse
  • A pathologist
  • A hospital
  • A birthing center 

Birth injury lawsuits are medical malpractice lawsuits that require you to go against large insurance companies. These companies have significant experience defending themselves against medical malpractice claims and have significant financial resources to invest.

You must meet numerous legal requirements, such as filing an affidavit of merit from a qualified medical doctor. Proving malpractice claims requires extensive medical knowledge. Only seasoned medical malpractice lawyers with experience successfully handling birth injury cases should handle such claims. 

Our neonatal stroke attorneys at Levin & Perconti have more than three decades of experience handling birth injury claims, and we have the resources needed to stand up to large medical malpractice insurance companies and win. Contact us now for a free case review.

How to Prove Your Child’s Stroke Was Caused by Medical Malpractice

To prevail in a birth injury lawsuit, you must prove that all of the following elements of negligence occurred in your case:

  1. The health care provider owed you a duty of care.
  2. The health care provider breached the duty of care.
  3. Your baby suffered a perinatal stroke and resulting harm.
  4. Your baby’s stroke would not have occurred but for the breach of duty.
  5. The provider’s breach of duty is the actual and proximate cause of your child’s stroke.

Health care providers breach the duty of care when they fail to follow established medical guidelines, also known as the reasonable standard of care. 

Our skilled birth injury lawyers are well-versed in the standard of care. We will compare your health care providers’ actions to the standard of care and identify every mistake that harmed your baby.

Damages You Can Recover If Your Child Has Experienced a Neonatal Stroke

Due to the permanent harm caused by a neonatal stroke, financial compensation may be substantial. The long-term effects of a neonatal stroke may result in excessive expenses for lifelong medical care, therapy, and childcare. 

As the parents or caregivers of a child who suffered a neonatal stroke, you may have to spend significant time and money on physical therapy, occupational therapy, doctor visits, and assistive devices. You may have to remodel your house or move to a new house to accommodate your child’s disability. You may even be forced to sacrifice your career.

You have the legal right to pursue compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and other financial costs. These are known as economic damages. You can also pursue compensation for your emotional distress and loss of quality of life, known as non-economic damages.

Your child may face a significant loss of earning potential and a reduced quality of life. You may be able to pursue the following economic and non-economic damages for your child:

  • Loss of future earning potential
  • Projected medical expenses after the age of 18
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of bodily functions
  • Inconvenience
  • Mental anguish

If your baby tragically dies from a perinatal stroke, you may also be able to recover compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. Such a suit will allow you to pursue damages for your family’s financial and emotional losses.

Is There a Deadline to File a Perinatal Stroke Claim?

Every state has a medical malpractice statute of limitations setting a deadline for filing a birth injury lawsuit. In Illinois, the time limit for a parent’s claim in a birth injury lawsuit is generally two years after your baby suffers the stroke or after you discover the injury. However, as a parent, you cannot sue more than four years after the doctor made the mistake. 

There is an exception for claims filed on behalf of your child. You can typically file these claims for up to eight years after your child suffers a perinatal stroke or after you discover the injury.

Numerous exceptions to the statute of limitations exist, which can work for you or against you. If you wait too long and the statute of limitations expires, you could leave significant money on the table. To protect your claim, contact one of our trusted neonatal stroke attorneys as soon as possible after your baby’s stroke is diagnosed. You can count on us to file your claim on time.

How Can Levin & Perconti Help If Your Child Has Been Diagnosed with a Perinatal Stroke?

If you are dealing with the effects of a perinatal stroke, we can investigate your case, file your lawsuit, and negotiate for the settlement you deserve. We provide a personalized approach. Thus, you can count on us to keep you informed and answer your calls. We charge no upfront fees, and you only pay if we win.

We are pioneers in birth injury litigation, and our award-winning attorneys are nationally recognized for our advocacy for children with cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, and other developmental disorders. 

Partners Dov Apfel and Seth Cardeli are accomplished national leaders in birth trauma litigation with numerous published legal works. They regularly lecture at national conferences and mentor other leading attorneys. They have more than four decades of combined experience in birth injury litigation and have won numerous multimillion-dollar verdicts for birth injury victims.

We have developed the most effective and aggressive approach to birth injury litigation. As a result, we have won more than $2 billion in settlements and verdicts for our clients, including the following successful birth injury case results:

  • \$40 million verdict for a disabled teen who suffered a severe brain injury during birth due to a delayed C-section delivery
  • $20 million verdict for a child who suffered preventable HIE and asphyxia at birth, resulting in permanent cognitive and developmental impairments
  • $14 million for the family of a child who suffered a brain injury due to inadequate fetal monitoring, oxygen deprivation, and a delayed C-section
  • $11.5 million FTCA settlement for the child of active-duty parents who suffered a catastrophic brain injury from HIE at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Guam from negligent neonatal resuscitation and intubation 
  • $9 million settlement for the family of a baby who suffered brain damage due to a doctor’s failure to test the mother for Group B Strep Meningitis during pregnancy
  • $6.5 million settlement for a young girl who suffered a brain injury with resulting cerebral palsy during birth due to a delayed C-section
  • $4.5 million settlement for a newborn who suffered a perinatal stroke, brain bleeds, and skull fractures during birth due to a negligent forceps delivery, leading to cerebral palsy
  • $4.5 million settlement for a child who suffered brain damage causing cerebral palsy as a result of a delayed C-section
  • $3.5 million settlement for the family of a newborn boy who died because of a delayed C-section
  • $3.5 million FTCA settlement for the family of a baby who suffered a brain injury from blood and oxygen deprivation that ultimately led to death
  • $2.5 million settlement over the death of a newborn infant caused by a doctor’s failure to respond to fetal distress and perform a timely C-section
  • $2.35 million settlement for a child who suffered severe brain injury and cerebral palsy from a delayed C-section after a doctor ignored a mother’s complaints when her uterus ruptured 
  • $850,000 settlement over the death of a 26-week-old fetus after the doctor failed to diagnose and treat gestational diabetes

Our adversaries know about our success, giving us the leverage to obtain maximum compensation during settlement negotiations.

Contact Our Perinatal Stroke Medical Malpractice Lawyers Today

The financial and emotional toll of a perinatal stroke can impact your family for a lifetime. When medical errors are to blame, you can count on us to hold negligent health care providers accountable. We will never settle for less than you deserve. 

We have over 30 years of experience winning substantial damages for injured children and their families. When medical malpractice has harmed your child, we are the attorneys you want on your side. 

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our perinatal stroke lawyers.