Seizures, Epilepsy and Georgia Birth Injuries
Epilepsy, sometimes simply called "seizure disorder," is one of the most common neurological disorders among children and adults in Georgia. People with epilepsy suffer from occasional abnormal electrical activity in the brain that causes symptoms called seizures.
In most cases, epilepsy is caused by brain damage. Brain injuries can occur at any time in life, but a baby's developing brain is particularly vulnerable. That means some Georgia families are looking at a lifetime of care for a child with epilepsy.
Types of seizures
Most people think of seizures as causing convulsions and erratic movements, but that is not true for everyone who has epilepsy. Types of seizures include:
- Absence seizures (petit mal): loss of consciousness but no convulsions. Usually brief (10 seconds or less).
- Atonic seizures (drop attacks): person abruptly loses consciousness and falls down, but no convulsions.
- Clonic seizures: loss of control of bodily functions, jerking movements and temporary loss of consciousness.
- Myoclonic seizures: involuntary movements in various parts of the body, but no loss of consciousness or confusion.
- Tonic seizures: muscle spasms, flexion or extension of limbs, and loss of consciousness. Often followed by a period of confusion.
- Tonic-Clonic Seizures (grand mal): most severe seizures that involve the entire brain. The child falls to the ground and then starts to twitch and jerk randomly. Often involves loss of bladder or bowel control. Period of confusion, disorientation and fatigue usually follows.
In children with birth injuries, epilepsy often occurs with cerebral palsy. Unfortunately, that can make seizure management more difficult. Seizures may last longer or be more severe in children who have cerebral palsy as well.
Treatment for epilepsy
Epilepsy cannot be cured because the underlying brain damage is permanent. That underlying damage also does not get better or worse over time, although the seizures themselves may change in severity as a person grows and develops. It can be controlled with proper treatment.
Most cases of epilepsy can be treated with anti-seizure drugs, also known as anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). There are numerous medications that treat seizures, some of which are more effective at treating certain kinds of seizures than others. Often, a combination of different medications is needed to get seizures under control.
There are other types of treatments that can work alongside medication to help get seizures under control, including dietary therapy, medical devices, and in some cases, surgical intervention.
Medical negligence and epilepsy
Again, the developing brain of a fetus or newborn is vulnerable to brain damage that can cause epilepsy. That's why medical professionals have a responsibility to properly care for the developing brain and intervene when certain complications occur. Some issues that can cause epilepsy include:
- Oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery (hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy)
- Untreated jaundice (hyperbilirubinemia), which causes brain damage (kernicterus)
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which starves the brain of fuel
- Infections that spread to the membrane of the brain (meningitis)
- Traumatic injuries during delivery or shortly after birth
These medical conditions are well-known and well-documented, and they can usually be prevented if doctors follow established standards of care. In addition, when there is a risk of brain damage, timely interventions like head cooling can reduce the amount of damage done and either prevent epilepsy from developing or reduce the duration and severity of future seizures.
If your child has been diagnosed with epilepsy and you have any reason to believe something may have gone wrong due to a doctor's error, you have legal options. A Georgia attorney can help you understand what happened and what you can do about it in a free consultation.