If your infant suffered brain damage as a result of a birth injury, they are at an increased risk for seizures. Seizures resulting from brain trauma—whether physical trauma or trauma caused by lack of oxygen to the brain—often begin early and may be the first indication of brain damage.
Working with a trusted doctor, most families can find the right treatment or combination of treatments that keep their child’s seizure activity under control. Children who have epilepsy as a result of a minor brain injury can often go on to lead normal lives as adults.
Some Types of Brain Injuries Greatly Increase the Risk of Seizures
Hypoxic–ischaemic (HIE) brain injuries cause about half of all seizure disorders in newborns, according to the medical journal BMJ. This is one of the most common types of brain injuries that occur before, during, or just after delivery. Hypoxic-ischaemic injuries occur when something limits the blood flow to the brain, which decreases the amount of oxygen it receives for a period of time. The causes of this type of injury vary widely, as does the severity. Some common causes include:
- Nuchal cord, when the cord wraps around the baby’s neck
- Prolapsed umbilical cord, when the cord delivers before the baby
- Placental abruption
- Intrauterine infections
- Infections in the mother or baby
- Exposure to certain drugs before birth
When children have a seizure disorder related to HIE injuries, their seizures typically begin early, often within the first 24 hours of their lives. Since this seizure activity occurs in the hospital, they may get a diagnosis and begin treatment before they ever go home.
In addition to hypoxic-ischaemic brain injuries, some physical trauma can lead to an increased risk for epilepsy. When a newborn suffers a subdural or subarachnoid hemorrhage, they may develop a seizure disorder. This depends on the area of the brain affected and the severity of the injury. Common causes of this type of trauma include:
- Improper use of assistive birth devices, such as forceps or a vacuum extractor
- Excessive pulling during delivery
- A large baby or a particularly petite mother
- Pre-term or post-term birth
- A prolonged second stage of labor (pushing)
It is important to note that seizure activity can cause additional brain damage in some cases. For this reason, it is important to get a prompt diagnosis and get the child’s epilepsy under control as soon as possible.
How to Spot Signs of a Seizure in Your Newborn
If your child is at an increased risk of epilepsy because of brain damage, you should know the signs and symptoms of a seizure in a newborn. A seizure in a newborn, especially a full-term baby, can be difficult to identify and may mimic normal behaviors in some cases. The signs can be subtle but often include:
- Random, uncontrolled eye movements that include eyelid blinking or fluttering, their eyes rolling up toward the top of their head, and blank stares
- Unusual mouth movements, including sucking and smacking
- Protruding tongue
- Unusual bicycling or pedaling movements of the legs
- Apnea, when the child stops breathing for several seconds at a time
As the child gets older, their symptoms may become more obvious depending on the type of seizures they are having.
- Clonic seizures cause rhythmic jerking movements that affect specific regions of the body, often the face, arms, or legs
- Tonic seizures cause tightening of the muscles, turning of the head to the side, and contracting of the limbs
- Myoclonic seizures cause single, uncontrolled jerking motions in one limb, one muscle group, or the whole body
In some cases, diagnosing infants with epilepsy is difficult. It is not uncommon for doctors or neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) staff to miss signs of seizures in children without risk factors for epilepsy.
Seizures Are Sometimes the First Symptom of Brain Damage
In some cases, when it appears delivery went relatively smoothly, and there is no reason to suspect a significant brain injury, seizure activity can be the first indication of permanent damage to the brain. In this way, neonatal seizures are often the first symptom of a brain injury.
Babies who have a seizure within hours of birth require prompt care from a specialist. It is imperative to get to the bottom of their underlying condition. While seizures are usually controlled with medication, you will want to ensure your child gets therapy, support, and early intervention for other conditions caused by their brain injury. This could include:
- Developmental disabilities
- Cerebral palsy
- Intellectual disabilities
- Other neurological disorders.
Brain Damage Lawsuits
If your child suffers from seizures as a result of a preventable brain injury that occurred before, during, or after birth, you may qualify to pursue a payout and hold the doctor who monitored your pregnancy and delivered your baby liable. This could allow you to recover damages that include:
- Medical care costs
- Ongoing and future care costs
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Pain and suffering damages