It is terrifying for a parent to see their young child go into a seizure, not knowing what caused it, if it will be okay, or if it will happen again. Unfortunately, this is all too common for children who suffer a birth injury caused by head trauma or oxygen deprivation during birth. When a brain injury was caused by medical errors, a medical malpractice claim may be a way to hold the doctor and hospital responsible for their negligence.
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that involves recurring seizures. Seizures are a result of a short change in normal brain activity. Seizures can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. The seizure itself can also range from what looks like a staring spell to traumatic shaking and spasms.
A seizure alone is not epilepsy. Seizures can also be caused by temporary medical problems, including a high fever, low blood sugar, poisoning, or alcohol withdrawal. However, a person is diagnosed with epilepsy when they have had two or more epileptic seizures.
Seizures are generally classified as:
- Generalized seizures – Affecting sides of the brain
- Focal seizures – Affecting one area of the brain, also called partial seizures
Signs and Symptoms of Epilepsy
Signs and symptoms of epilepsy can vary by patient. Seizures are the primary symptom but seizures can appear very differently for different people. A person with epilepsy may also experience different types of seizures. Types of seizures and their symptoms include:
Absence Seizures (Petit Mal Seizures)
- Rapid blinking
- Staring into space for a few seconds
Tonic-Clonic Seizures (Grand Mal Seizures)
- Crying out
- Loss of consciousness
- Falling to the ground
- Muscle jerks or spasms
- Muscles stiffening and relaxing
- Feeling tired after recovery
Simple Focal Seizures
- Change in sensation like strange taste or smell
Complex Focal Seizures
- Appear dazed or confused
- Unable to respond to questions or directions
For any seizures except for a grand mal seizure, it may be difficult for others to identify the symptoms. It may just look like someone is confused or daydreaming. This is especially difficult to identify in young children and caregivers or teachers may explain away the symptoms of a seizure as someone being spacey or not paying attention.
Once the parents or family members become familiar with a child’s seizure symptoms, they can often quickly identify them and take action if necessary. As children get older, they may also be able to recognize the onset of a seizure, or the “aura.” The aura may begin with a change in sensation or mood. However, seizures are often onset with the individual not able to do anything to prepare for the tonic-clonic seizure.
Causes of Epilepsy
There are a number of possible causes of epilepsy in newborns, children, and adults. Epilepsy involves some neurological disorders caused by injury, damage, disease, or other conditions in the brain. Causes can include:
- Oxygen deprivation (including hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy HIE)
- Brain tumor
- Traumatic brain injury
- Infection in the brain
- Genetic disorders like Down syndrome
- Degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s
Epilepsy is a common brain condition, affecting millions of children and adults in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 3 million adults and 470,000 children in the U.S. have epilepsy. For many children, epilepsy developed because of a birth injury, most commonly caused by lack of oxygen or brain trauma.
Hypoxia and HIE in Birth Injuries
Hypoxia is a dangerous condition that is caused by a lack of oxygen supply to a baby’s brain during pregnancy or birth. The longer the brain is deprived of oxygen, the more serious the damage may be for the baby. Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE, in the fetus during birth may have a number of causes, including:
Parents may become aware of brain damage or brain injury immediately after the child is born. However, in some situations, the extent of the injury may not be known for years. Injuries caused by HIE birth injuries include cerebral palsy, epilepsy, developmental delays, cognitive impairment, and motor dysfunction.
Brain Trauma Birth Injury
Infants are very sensitive to force, pressure, or any trauma to the brain. The brain, nervous system, and skull are still developing with limited protection from outside forces. Trauma to the skull or bleeding inside the skull can cause serious brain damage, including damage that leads to epilepsy.
An intracranial hemorrhage is a childbirth injury that involves bleeding somewhere inside the skull. An intracranial-subarachnoid hemorrhage involves bleeding between two membrane layers that encase the brain, the pia mater and the arachnoid mater. This bleeding can cause swelling in the skull that damages brain tissue.
Head or brain trauma during delivery can also lead to brain bleeds. This can occur with improper delivery techniques where a doctor uses too much force on the head or neck, or improper assisted delivery using extraction devices like forceps or a vacuum extractor to deliver the baby. Consequences of a brain bleed include epilepsy, developmental delays, physical disabilities, and mental disabilities.
Treatment for epilepsy can include a combination of medicine, surgery, or other treatments. Medications are effective in the majority of patients to limit the spread of seizures to the brain. A doctor may take a number of medicines to find the most effective drug or drug combination for the individual patient.
Surgery may be available to remove a single area of the brain where the focal seizures occur. However, this may only be available for limited patients. Other treatments involve nerve stimulation with an implanted electrical device. A change in diet may also help some patients. Surgery and treatment may be used in combination with drug treatment.
Brain Injury Medical Malpractice Attorneys
The birth injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian understand what families are going through. With record-breaking verdicts for birth injury victims, our lawyers will help you recover compensation for your losses. If your loved one suffered negligent medical care involving a brain injury or epilepsy, talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney about your options. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.