What causes PVL in babies, and when might doctor negligence play a role?
Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) is a potentially serious health condition that can affect newborns. It generally occurs when the white matter in the baby’s brain decays or sustains damage during birth and is unable to transmit impulses to the rest of the body. The decay results in holes and voids, which fill up with intracranial fluid over time.
PVL in babies can be mild and manageable, but there are some cases where the condition exacerbates to result in permanent mental and physical disabilities. Some of the common effects of PVL are cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
The connection between periventricular leukomalacia and cerebral palsy (CP) results from injury to the brain of a baby after birth. While CP is caused by an injury to the brain, PVL refers to an injury of a specific part of the brain during pregnancy. PVL can result in cerebral palsy, but these 2 conditions have differences. If the condition is known as “PVL CP,” it means that the cerebral palsy was originally caused by PVL.
What causes PVL?
Blood should flow uninterrupted through the ventricles of a fetus’s developing brain. If the flow of blood is interrupted, then the developing brain won’t receive enough oxygen. During the last trimester, the brain ventricles of an unborn baby are very susceptible to injury. Even seemingly minor injuries or blockages in circulation can impact the normal development of the brain in a major way.
If the mother or the baby doesn’t receive enough oxygenated blood during pregnancy, the fetus may suffer white matter brain damage. Infections to the fetal membranes or other infections from the mother might interrupt the supply of oxygen.
Some of the maternal risk factors of PVL include:
- Multiple births
- Placental defects
- Uterine infection
- Infections of the umbilical cord
- Premature rupture of the amniotic sac
- Infection of the amniotic fluid
Common PVL signs and symptoms
PVL develops during pregnancy, but a doctor can only diagnose it a few months after birth. Each baby exhibits different PVL symptoms, but some of the most common signs in most babies include:
- Slow development and missing development milestones
- Poor body control
- Impaired vision
- Contractions and tightness of the muscles of the legs
Some babies will develop clinical seizures as a result of PVL, especially if the injury is severe. It’s not possible to tell whether these symptoms indicate the baby has PVL because they may indicate other birth injuries as well.
To accurately diagnose PVL, doctors must perform a series of tests on the child’s brain. One of the examinations involves a cranial ultrasound. Another diagnostic tool is a pregnancy ultrasound. When performed, the ultrasound gives a clear picture of any brain damage to the baby.
Other methods commonly used to diagnose this condition may involve the use of magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography.
Periventricular leukomalacia treatment
Unfortunately, PVL isn’t treatable.
Since brain damage occurs at a very young age, this means the baby’s brain will not develop as it should. After the damage, the part of the brain that decays will not recover and doctors have yet to discover a way to repair or restore this decayed brain tissue.
PVL does still require proper monitoring and management to ensure that it doesn’t cause further long-term effects. After diagnosis, a doctor may prescribe rehabilitative physical therapy and occupational therapy. There are also medications that help manage PVL-caused seizures.
The good news is that not all children develop long-term side effects from PVL. Some children only have mild cases and manageable symptoms. With physical and cognitive therapy, a child can see great results.
Also, PVL isn’t a progressive condition so the symptoms will not get worse over time. Once the damage is done, brain development stays at that level. However, the physical symptoms of PVL are more noticeable as the child gets older.
Periventricular leukomalacia birth injury claims
PVL is more common in babies born prematurely. The healthcare team that delivers the baby should take all necessary precautions to ensure that your baby doesn’t suffer brain damage. The team should monitor your baby’s heart rate and be ready to perform an emergency cesarean (C) section if necessary. They should also take steps to prevent any foreseeable complications during delivery.
For instance, if a doctor discovers that the baby’s heart rate is fluctuating and the baby might be in distress, they may need to perform an emergency c-section to prevent further injury to the baby. If the doctor fails to deliver the baby sooner, the baby might sustain brain damage.
Negligence occurs when a doctor fails to realize factors that could lead to an inadequate supply of oxygen to a baby’s brain. Some of these factors include:
- Umbilical cord wrapped around a baby’s neck
- Improper use of vacuum extractors
- Ignoring preterm contraction
- Failure to detect and treat infections
- Premature rupture of the membranes
If a doctor’s negligence caused preventable brain damage to your baby, you may be able to sue them for malpractice. A PVL diagnosis could cost you thousands of dollars as your child might require extensive therapy and other treatment.
Consult with a birth injury lawyer to explore all your legal options. We’ve helped parents and children secure millions of dollars in settlements. Contact us today for your free consultation.
- Cerebral Palsy
- Caput Succedaneum and Cephalohematoma
- Neonatal Intracranial Hemorrhage (Childbirth Brain Bleeds)
- Hydrocephalus (Extra Fluid in the Brain Cavity)
- Cervical Dystonia
- Hemiplegia (Brain or Spinal Cord Injury)
- Hemorrhagic Stroke
- Neonatal Stroke
- Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL) Brain Injury
- Infant Seizures
- Spastic Diplegia (Spasticity in the Legs)
- Top Risks for Birth Injuries
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
- G-Tubes for Newborns
- Medical Errors
- Cesarean Section & Birth Injury
- Negligence in Brain Cooling Treatment
- Craniosacral Therapy
- Fetal Intolerance to Labor
- Jaundice (Kernicterus)
- Breech Position
- Placental Complications
- Placental Problems
- Umbilical Cord Problems
- Uterine Rupture
- Cervical Incompetence (Insufficiency)
- Blighted Ovum
- Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) - Intestinal Inflammation
- Cephalopelvic Disproportion
- Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
- Amniotic Fluid Embolism
- Birth Injury from Premature Delivery
- Developmental Delays
- Abnormal Cord Insertion
- Infections at Birth
- Chorioamnionitis Bacterial Infection
- Premature birth
- Oxygen Deprivation
- Birth-Acquired Herpes
- Placenta Previa
- Placental Abruption
- Mismanaged Fetal Malposition
- Obesity Related Birth Injuries
- Intrauterine Growth Restriction
- Blood Clots During Pregnancy
- Ectopic Pregnancy Misdiagnosis
- Myths & Facts About Birth Injuries
- Bacterial Vaginosis
- Gestational Diabetes
- Maternal Mortality Risk
- Oligohydramnios (Low Amniotic Fluid)
- Infections During Pregnancy