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Periventricular Leukomalacia

Addressing Brain Damage Resulting From Birth Injuries - Illinois Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Brain injuries which occur during birth can be incredibly damaging to a child's health and development, and they may even result in the death of the child. Because of this, medical staff should closely monitor the condition of the mother and the child during labor and delivery and take immediate steps to address any complications that occur, including providing the proper treatment for brain injuries. Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) is one especially dangerous condition that may result from a brain injury during a child's birth.

What Is PVL?

The brain contains four cavities known as "ventricles" that are filled with cerebrospinal fluid. Periventricular refers to the brain tissue surrounding these ventricles, leuko- means white, and malacia refers to a softening of tissue. Periventricular leukomalacia involves a softening of the brain's "white matter" around the ventricles. The white matter transmits electrical signals throughout the brain, and damage to this tissue can result in intellectual disabilities or motor disorders such as Cerebral Palsy.

Causes of PVL

Periventricular leukomalacia may occur for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Lack of oxygen - Brain injuries often occur because of a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain. This may happen because of complications during birth leading to asphyxia, or a fetal stroke may occur if there is hemorrhaging or swelling in the brain. PVL is often associated with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a condition involving brain damage caused by inadequate flow of oxygenated blood.
  • Infections - An intrauterine infection may be transmitted from the mother to the child, and this may damage the brain's white matter or cause inflammation that restricts blood flow.
  • Intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) - Bleeding within the ventricles can damage the surrounding tissue, or it may disrupt or block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, leading to hydrocephalus, or an increase of fluid in the brain.

Risk Factors

Doctors should be aware of the following factors that may lead to PVL:

  • Premature birth - A child born before 32 weeks or with a very low birth weight is at high risk of contracting periventricular leukomalacia. 
  • Premature rupture of membranes (PROM) - If a mother's "water breaks" before 37 weeks, this can lead to intrauterine infections.
  • Preeclampsia - High blood pressure in the mother can affect blood flow to the placenta, which may result in a lack of oxygen to the child's brain. This condition is often related to other factors, such as maternal obesity and gestational diabetes.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A child who experiences seizures, respiratory distress, low heart rate, or delays in muscle development or motor skills may have been affected by periventricular leukomalacia. Doctors may use tests such as cranial ultrasounds, MRIs, or CT scans to diagnose PVL. Premature infants should be closely monitored to identify and treat PVL as soon as possible.

While damage to the brain is typically irreversible, doctors may take steps to lower the risks of PVL, including preventing or delaying premature birth, maintaining proper blood pressure in an infant, and ensuring that a child receives enough oxygen. In cases involving HIE, hypothermia treatment used to cool a baby's brain may help prevent the spread of brain damage.

Addressing Child Brain Injuries

A brain injury can significantly affect a child's quality of life. In addition to receiving immediate medical treatment to reduce further damage, a variety of forms of long-term care may be required, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, assistive devices, and special education. If you have any questions about the potential effects of an injury your child experienced during birth, or if you want to know more about the costs providing care for your child, the Birth Injury Law Alliance can work with you to help you determine your best options. Contact our office today by calling 312-945-1300.

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