The inner part of the brain contains white tissue that transmits signals between parts of the brain and from the nerve cells to the spinal cord. Sometimes a child suffers from a lack of blood flow to this white tissue before birth, during labor and delivery, or shortly afterward. The resulting damage to brain tissue is known as periventricular leukomalacia. Nerve cells in this area of the brain may be harmed as a result. Children with PVL may struggle to control their muscle movements and face cognitive difficulties. PVL can result in cerebral palsy in moderate to severe cases.
Not every child with PVL develops symptoms, and the condition may evolve gradually over several months. Thus, a doctor may not be able to diagnose PVL immediately. In addition to conducting a physical exam, a doctor who suspects PVL may conduct a cranial ultrasound several weeks after birth. The images produced by the ultrasound may reveal cysts or hollow areas in the brain tissue, which are consistent with a PVL diagnosis. A doctor also may conduct an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan. Images from an MRI may reveal irregularities in brain tissue that suggest PVL in a child.
Symptoms of PVL vary widely, but children often experience stiff, tight muscles in their legs. This condition is known as spastic diplegia, which is a common type of spastic cerebral palsy. Spastic diplegia can cause jerky movements, an abnormal gait, and overactive reflexes, among other issues. Over time, a child may develop further symptoms as secondary effects of their inability to control their muscle movements. A child with PVL should be regularly monitored to make sure that any subsequent conditions are identified and addressed.
Treatment for Periventricular Leukomalacia
Like cerebral palsy, PVL does not have a permanent cure. Children with this condition may need several forms of therapy to live relatively healthy, productive lives. For example, physical therapy exercises can help a child stretch their muscles to improve their range of motion and release tension. Meanwhile, occupational therapy can help a child develop the skills that they need to conduct daily activities independently. This also can boost their self-esteem and school performance. Speech therapy can improve their ability to communicate and interact with other people.
A doctor also may prescribe medications to relieve stiffness and relax muscles. If PVL manifests as spastic diplegia or another form of cerebral palsy, a doctor may recommend surgery in some cases to deal with problems such as joint dislocations. A child may benefit from assistive devices, such as leg braces.
Compensation for Periventricular Leukomalacia
Although the causes of PVL vary widely, some cases arise at least in part from medical malpractice. For example, a parent may bring a medical malpractice claim to recover damages related to PVL if a doctor failed to properly monitor their baby, failed to respond to fetal distress, or committed errors during delivery that caused oxygen deprivation. Damages may include past medical costs and ongoing expenses, such as therapies and medications. A child also may receive compensation for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.
Birth injury cases are complex and may involve intricate procedures. Failing to follow the steps required by state laws and court rules can result in the loss of the right to compensation. Therefore, a parent of a child suffering from PVL should retain a birth injury lawyer who can build their case and navigate any procedural hurdles.
The Role of Experts
Among other things, an attorney can hire medical experts to describe the errors by a defendant health care provider. Experts also can describe the long-term impact of PVL on a child’s life, maximizing the available damages. Most birth injury cases rely on expert testimony, which may be challenging to obtain without the help of an attorney.