Encephalopathy

Conditions and diseases that affect the brain can be some of the most difficult for victims and their families. Brain disorders can cause mental and physical impairments and can even change the victim's personality. Brain diseases can have a temporary or long-term impact and it is important for patients and family members to understand the issues and the causes. When a brain disorder was caused by medical errors, the injury victim may have a medical malpractice claim for compensation for their losses.   

What is Encephalopathy?

Encephalopathy is the broad term for any disorder or disease of the brain. There are many types of brain disease that can include anything from birth injury, to traumatic brain injury, to degenerative brain disease. There are also many causes of brain disease, including oxygen deprivation, traumatic head injury, cancer, malnutrition, and genetic disorders. Some types of encephalopathy include: 

  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) - Caused by multiple head injuries that cause damage over time. This brain condition can impact sports athletes, including boxers, football players, and wrestlers.
  • Amino acid imbalance encephalopathy - Imbalance of amino acids in the body can lead to encephalopathy. This includes conditions that produce abnormally high levels of glycine in the brain, which can occur in infants. 
  • Brain tumors - Brain tumors and lesions can cause pressure, swelling, or damage in the brain. 
  • Liver disease encephalopathy - Liver disease can cause hepatic encephalopathy, where the liver does not properly remove toxins in the blood that can build up and cause damage in the brain.
  • Kidney disease encephalopathy - Kidney failure can cause uremic encephalopathy, where uremic toxins in the blood build up, causing injury to the brain. 
  • High blood pressure encephalopathy - Hypertensive encephalopathy can cause the brain to swell over time, leading to damage.
  • Infectious encephalopathy - Infections can occur in the brain or other parts of the body, like the urinary tract. This includes bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. The body's response to infection can lead to sepsis, infection shock, and brain damage.
  • Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) -  Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is related to a lack of oxygen supply to the brain which can cause permanent brain damage. HIE can affect babies in the womb or during labor. 
  • Toxic encephalopathy - Toxic chemical exposure can cause damage or injury to the brain, and may occur after long exposure to drugs, radiation, industrial chemicals, metals, or solvents. 
  • Hashimoto's encephalopathy - Hashimoto's encephalopathy is a rare condition that may cause impaired brain function.

Signs and Symptoms of Encephalopathy

Signs and symptoms of encephalopathy can vary by patient. Encephalopathy may cause neurological, mental, personality, and emotional symptoms. These can include: 

  • Change in personality
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Muscle weakness
  • Involuntary twitching
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

Many signs of encephalopathy may be ignored or brushed off by patients or even their doctors. Some symptoms may be explained away as not getting enough sleep, stress, or just getting older. If you do not think your doctors or healthcare providers are taking your concerns seriously, consider getting a second opinion. Doctors make mistakes and their mistakes can have serious impacts on your health. 

Causes of Encephalopathy and Medical Malpractice

There are multiple causes of encephalopathy. Unfortunately for patients and their families, some brain injuries are caused by medical malpractice. When a doctor's carelessness or mistake causes encephalopathy, the patient and family suffer the cost. Some of the ways in which a medical mistake can cause encephalopathy include: 

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Failure to diagnose brain cancer
  • Improper medication prescription
  • Hospital-acquired infection
  • Failure to monitor patient
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Anesthesia errors

Treating Encephalopathy and Medical Mistakes

Diagnosing encephalopathy may involve a number of diagnostic and imaging tests. These tests may be used to evaluate the patient's memory and mental function, electrical activity in the brain, chemical levels, and scans of the head and brain. Treatments may include: 

  • Changes in medication
  • Changes in diet
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Dialysis
  • Organ transplant
  • Brain surgery

Some encephalopathy is permanent and other brain diseases may be reversible. The treatment and recover options may depend on a number of factors, including the cause of the injury or disease, age of the patient, and overall health of the patient. Failure to properly treat brain diseases and brain disorders could result in a worse outcome, permanent brain damage, or even death. 

Long-Term Effects of Encephalopathy

Many types of encephalopathy are reversible and could lead to complete recovery with limited long-term effects. This may include encephalopathy that is caused by infection, chemical imbalance, or toxins in the body. Recovery options may include a change in diet, reducing alcohol intake, or reducing exposure to toxic substances.

Hereditary types of encephalopathy may not be preventable and the effects can get worse over time. Types of encephalopathy from brain trauma, transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, or infection encephalopathy may be permanent or degenerative. Treatment may focus on rehabilitation and living with the permanent damage. 

Birth Injury Encephalopathy

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a type of birth injury in newborns. This can be caused by the umbilical cord wrapping around the child's neck while in the womb. This type of complication can cause oxygen deprivation before, during, or after labor. 

HIE and other problems where the oxygen supply is compromised, like anoxia or hypoxia, can cause permanent birth damage. Signs of HIE in newborns may include: 

If you believe your child suffered HIE and medical negligence during pregnancy or labor, it is important to see medical experts about your child's wellbeing. Contact a birth injury medical malpractice attorney for answers and help with your claim.

Encephalopathy and Brain Injury Medical Malpractice Attorneys

The birth injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian strive to represent victims of medical malpractice throughout the U.S. With record-breaking verdicts for brain and birth injury victims, our lawyers will help you recover compensation for your losses. If your loved one suffered negligent medical care involving encephalopathy or a brain injury, talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney about your options. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.

Let Us Help

If someone you are close to has been seriously injured or worse, you are naturally devastated not only by what has happened, but by the effect that the injury or loss has had on you and your family. At a time when you're vulnerable, traumatized and emotionally exhausted, you need a team that will support you through the often complex process that lies ahead.

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