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Cystic Encephalomalacia

Chicago birth injury attorney for cystic encephalomalacia

Understanding the Effects of Infant Brain Injuries - Chicago Birth Injury Attorney

When a child suffers an injury during birth, parents may struggle to understand the complicated medical terms they hear and determine how they should proceed to ensure their child receives the proper treatment. Brain injuries can be especially harmful, and cystic encephalomalacia is one type of condition that may result from a birth injury.

What Is Encephalomalacia?

Encephalo- refers to the brain, and malacia means a softening of tissue. During birth, a child may experience a brain injury that results in the development of pockets of air or fluid known as cysts in the white matter of the brain. This condition is known as "cystic encephalomalacia," "multicystic encephalomalacia," or "polycystic encephalomalacia." 

Encephalomalacia is often related to conditions such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) or periventricular leukomalacia. It may occur for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Cerebral infarction - A stroke may occur if blood flow is interrupted to a part of the brain, or brain tissue may be damaged if a child experiences asphyxia during birth.
  • Infections - Viral or bacterial infections may directly damage brain tissue, or they may cause inflammation of the brain that affects blood flow and results in damage to brain cells due to lack of oxygen.
  • Brain trauma - Complications during birth can lead to severe bruises or skull fractures, which can damage the brain directly or lead to swelling or hemorrhages that impede the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
  • Hypotension - An infant may have dangerously low blood pressure due to issues such as blood loss, infections, abnormal heartbeat, medications meant to reduce blood pressure, or issues with the adrenal gland. Low blood pressure may result in brain damage due to lack of blood flow.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Children who have experienced brain damage may show a variety of different symptoms, including seizures, an enlarged or irregularly-shaped head, difficulty feeding, irritability or excessive crying, or developmental delays. If parents observe any of these symptoms, or if a doctor suspects that a brain injury may have occurred, imaging tests such as a CT scan, MRI, or cranial ultrasound may be used to identify any cysts that have developed and determine the extent of the damage.

In many cases, brain damage is irreversible. However, a child may receive a number of treatments to prevent further damage or to address the symptoms related to the injury. Surgery may be required to remove cysts or dead brain tissue, and this may help avoid additional softening of brain tissue or allow more room for healthy tissue. In some cases, parts of the skull may be removed to reduce damage from swelling, or surgery may ensure that the brain receives the proper blood flow.

Meeting the Needs of a Child With a Brain Injury

If a child suffers a brain injury during birth, they may experience significant cognitive impairments and physical or mental disabilities. Many brain injuries result in cerebral palsy, and they are also associated with conditions such as epilepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), Asperger's Syndrome, and autism.

Cystic encephalomalacia can be an incredibly damaging condition that affects a child's immediate health, as well as their long-term development. For more information about the care and treatment for a child with this condition or other injuries that occurred during birth, and to learn about the options for receiving financial assistance to address a child's needs, contact the Birth Injury Law Alliance at 312-945-1300.

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