Birth Injury Treatments

Birth injuries can affect a child in many different ways. As a result, treatments for birth injuries vary. While some injuries are less serious than others, they all require quick action from parents and doctors. Without quick treatment, these issues can cause lifelong health issues or even death.

Treatment for Birth Injuries

Birth injuries outside of cerebral palsy or Erb’s palsy can be treated. However, the success of these treatments depends on the birth injury.

Birth injuries come in many different forms. While a baby might be able to recover from a mild issue like jaundice, a severe brain injury could be permanent. Some issues, like intrauterine fetal demise, do not have a treatment for the baby.

The most important factor in treating a birth injury is time. If an injury is caught early on, it can be treated before it seriously harms the baby. If a doctor fails to catch a severe birth injury before it is too late, they could be found at fault for any long-term issues.

Since there are many different types of birth injuries, what treatments will work and how successful they may be varies depending on the injury.

Treatment for Brain Damage

The best way to treat brain damage is to get medical help as soon as possible. Babies are at a higher risk of suffering brain damage because their brains are still growing.

Brain damage can be caused by many issues, including a lack of oxygen, trauma or infection in the brain.The symptoms that may result from brain damage depends on where the injury takes place.

Therefore, it is important to consult with your doctor about any issues you notice in your child. Trained doctors can accurately diagnose brain damage and recommend a treatment plan.

Though there may not be a cure for your child’s brain injury, treatments can help manage their symptoms at the very least.

In general, treatments include:

  • Surgery: Surgery may be used during the initial treatment process or to manage issues with symptoms later on. Surgery can stop bleeding within the brain and remove blood clots that could damage the brain. In some cases it can help manage other issues like seizures.
  • Rehabilitation: Rehabilitation allows people to live as normally as possible with a brain injury. Therapy targets the areas that are the most challenging for the affected person. The type of therapy that will be required depends on the child’s specific issues. For example, children who can’t control their arms or legs may need physical therapy. Those who have problems talking can benefit from speech therapy. For babies, it can be hard to tell what areas they will have issues with until they become older. However, they still can undergo therapy as a precaution.
  • Medications: Medications can curb certain symptoms that are commonly caused by brain injuries, such as seizures and muscle spasticity. Your child may need several different medications to manage all their symptoms.

Treatment for Infant Hematoma

An infant hematoma is an extremely serious condition. It occurs when a head injury causes bleeding in the brain. This bleeding clots and puts pressure on the brain.

Though some hematomas may clear up on their own, never ignore medical treatment if you think your child may have suffered one. Treatment must be sought quickly to prevent your child from serious injury or death. Surgery is the most common way to help manage a hematoma.

Surgeries include:

  • Burr Hole Surgery: Doctors drill small holes in the skull to relieve the pressure caused by the blood in this procedure. Burr hole surgery is one of the most common treatments for less severe hematomas.
  • Craniotomy: An oval-shaped piece of the skull called a bone flap is removed to allow the pressure to escape. Once the surgery is completed the bone flap is put back. A craniotomy may be recommended if the hematoma is particularly large or has clotted into a solid mass.
  • Craniectomy: This is very similar to a craniotomy in that a bone flap is removed. However, it is not put back in at the end of the surgery. Though it has a poorer overall outcome than a craniotomy, those who undergo a craniectomy have a lower chance of suffering another hematoma.

Other potential treatments for hematomas include:

  • Diuretics: These water pills, while mainly used to increase urine flow, also help reduce swelling in the brain caused by hematomas.
  • Medications: Corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce brain inflammation and swelling. Other drugs may be used if seizures are present.

Treatment for Intrauterine Fetal Demise

An intrauterine fetal demise (IUFD) is also known as a stillbirth. IUFD is different from a miscarriage, because the baby has died after the 20th week of development.

Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the pregnancy must be ended. This can be done in a few different ways.

Mothers can wait to deliver the baby naturally or they can request that labor be induced. Induction of labor starts the delivery through medical means. Gynecologists will often recommend medications such as mifepristone or misoprostol to help speed up the labor process. Medical induction can be done when the mother is emotionally ready, or it can be done immediately following a diagnosis.

Other treatments for IUFD include:

  • Caesarean delivery (C-section): A C-section allows the baby to be delivered quickly without waiting for induction. The mother is given anesthetics before doctors medically remove the baby. The whole process—including the delivery and post-birth stitching—takes a little more than an hour.
  • Dilation and evacuation (D&E) surgery: D&E surgery allows the baby to be removed using different tools. The mother is first sedated with general or local anesthesia. Doctors will then dilate the cervix and begin the removal. D&E surgery usually takes half an hour to complete.

Because of the trauma of losing a baby, parents may need to seek bereavement services and psychological counseling. Issues that may stem from an IUFD include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.

Treatment for Newborn Jaundice

When newborns have jaundice, their skin is tinted yellow because they have too much of pigment called bilirubin in their bloodstream. It is one of the most common and most treatable conditions in newborns. However, it can cause severe injury in rare cases.

According to the Mayo Clinic, most cases of newborn jaundice clear up on their own after a few weeks without treatment. However, if it does not clear up, a doctor will recommend a few different treatments.

The most common treatments include:

  • Light Therapy: Also known as phototherapy, light therapy allows bilirubin levels to return to normal. The baby is typically placed under fluorescent lights for several hours during the treatment period. Exposure to this light makes bilirubin easier for the baby’s body to break down. They may also wear a fiber-optic blanket or pad to make the process easier.
  • Exchange Transfusion: If the baby’s condition does not respond to light therapy, they may need a blood transfusion. Through an exchange transfusion, your baby’s blood will be replaced with that of a matching donor. Since the donor’s blood will not contain the excess pigment, the jaundice will clear up faster.
  • Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIg):  In some cases, newborn jaundice can be caused when a mother’s blood type does not match with the baby’s. As a result, the mother’s immune system develops antibodies that attack the baby’s blood cells. Immunoglobulin is a protein that can help break down these antibodies through a transfusion.

The baby should be monitored during these treatments (particularly light therapy) for any potential issues, such as dehydration. By monitoring the baby, doctors can track their progress and take extra steps if needed.

In less severe cases, doctors may also recommend that you change how you feed your baby. They will often recommend feeding the baby more so they can flush the excess pigments out.

Treatment for Kernicterus

Kernicterus is a serious issue related to newborn jaundice. Kernicterus happens when the bilirubin that causes jaundice builds up to dangerous levels. Too much bilirubin can cause permanent brain damage.

Kernicterus is a medical emergency. However, if treatment starts early on, some of the brain damage could be reversed. The main treatment for kernicterus includes phototherapy and a blood transfusion.

Treatment for Spinal Cord Injuries

Most spinal cord injuries that occur at birth typically affect the neck area. If a child may have suffered a spinal cord injury, they must get medical attention immediately.

Depending on the extent of the damage, the injury may not ever heal completely, as there is no cure for spinal cord injuries. However, different treatments can improve your child’s quality of life.

Treatments for spinal cord injuries include:

  • Surgery: Surgery can help contain the damage and stabilize the affected area, according to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. It is not necessary in all cases, but can prove to be helpful.
  • Therapy: For children with severe spinal cord injuries, therapy can help strengthen their muscles and find ways to move despite their injury. Parents and therapists can work with the child to keep their body healthy.
  • Medications: Medications can manage pain and control swelling of the spine. Certain medications can also help with unique issues like spasticity and bladder issues.
  • Adaptive Equipment: Adaptive equipment may be needed if the injury affects the child’s movement. For example, they may need crutches or a wheelchair if they cannot move their legs properly. In more extreme cases, children may need breathing support or a catheter to control their bowel movements.

Birth Injuries, Treatments and Outlook

Because birth injuries come in many forms, the treatments and outcomes for each one are very different. However, a common thread between all of them is that immediate treatment improves their outlook. It is important to speak with your doctor as soon as possible if you have any concerns about your child’s health.

Another common thread between these issues is medical negligence. Most of these issues can be caught and treated early on by properly trained doctors and nurses. However, negligent doctors may fail to catch these issues, which could leave your child permanently injured.

If you believe your child’s injury could have been avoided with proper medical care, reach out to us for a free case review.

Author:Birth Injury Justice Center
Birth Injury Justice Center

The Birth Injury Justice Center was founded in 2003 by a team of legal professionals to educate and empower victims and families affected by birth injuries. Our team is devoted to providing you with the best resources and legal information for all types of birth injuries.

Last modified: January 24, 2019

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