Spina Bifida Lawyers in Pittsburgh, PA
Every new parent wants their baby to be born healthy and happy, but sometimes, even the most textbook pregnancies can have unexpected outcomes. A birth defect like spina bifida can come as a devastating surprise, and we're here to help you navigate the unknown if your child has been recently diagnosed.
Being able to recognize the spina bifida definition is your first line of defense. Spina bifida occurs when a baby's spine and spinal cord aren't formed properly. This type of birth defect is considered a defect of the neural tube, which doesn't properly close or develop in babies during pregnancy. In turn, the baby will experience complications with their spinal cord and bones of their spine.
Spina bifida is a bit of a catchall phrase. There are actually many spina bifida types to be aware of if your baby has been diagnosed.
Types of Spina Bifida:
- Spina bifida occulta: This is considered a "hidden" type of spina bifida, and is the mildest form of the defect. Often, people with spina bifida occulta don't know they have it. Spina bifida occulta causes tiny gaps in one or more bones of the spine but those gaps aren't likely to cause any harm.
- Meningocele: This form of spina bifida can cause complications due to the protective membranes around the spinal cord pushing out through openings in the vertebrae. Fluid-filled sacs are formed – but the sacs don't include the spinal cord so there is less risk for nerve damage.
- Myelomeningocele: This type of spina bifida is the most severe. A baby with this type of spina bifida is exposed to life-threatening infections due to openings in the spinal canal along their lower or middle back. Membranes and spinal nerves push through those openings and form a sac on the baby's back – exposing tissues and nerves. Babies commonly can experience fluid on the brain, or hydrocephalus, due to this type of spina bifida.
If your newborn has been diagnosed with any type of spina bifida, don't hesitate to call the Pittsburgh office of Edgar Snyder & Associates at 412-394-1000. You may have a case if a doctor or medical professional missed the diagnosis or didn't treat your baby properly.
Can Spina Bifida Be Fatal?
Generally, there is no one size fits all spina bifida prognosis, but the outcomes for babies who've been diagnosed have significantly improved throughout the last decades. There are many babies who go on to lead full, productive lives despite the unique challenges that come with spina bifida.
In some cases, though, there can be fatalities due to brain damage. Infections in the tissues surrounding the brain can happen, such as a baby contracting meningitis. This life-threatening condition can occur if a child is experiencing myelomeningocele spina bifida in particular.
Other complications can arise, causing physical disabilities that range in their severity based on a variety of factors that are unique to each child:
- Walking and mobility problems
- Bowel and bladder issues
- Tethered spinal cord
- Breathing problems during sleep
- Latex allergies
- Skin problems
- Orthopedic issues (muscle weakness, scoliosis, etc.)
- Among other things
For babies with hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain), a shunt can be surgically implanted in order to drain excess fluid into the abdomen. Sometimes, there can be complications with the shunt if it stops working or becomes infected. There also is a common brain abnormality that can occur in children with spina bifida called Chiari malformation type II. Due to elongation and position issues with the brainstem, children can experience breathing and swallowing problems.
With all of these complications that occur in babies suffering this birth defect, some parents decide to file a spina bifida lawsuit due to misdiagnosis, or missed diagnoses before birth. In order to make the best decisions for your case, you need an experienced team on your side.
Hire a spina bifida lawyer who understands the ins and outs of a baby's special needs while dealing with this life-changing diagnosis. You focus on your baby – let us handle the rest. Our Pittsburgh attorneys are standing by to hear from you at 412-394-1000.
Can You Fix Spina Bifida?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for spina bifida. It's always hard to hear that your brand-new baby now has to fight another battle. The good news is that there are plenty of options for spina bifida treatment that can greatly increase the quality of life for a baby who has been diagnosed. Certain treatment types can vary, since every child's case is different. Some babies may be suffering only the mildest form of spina bifida, and therefore may not need any kind of treatment at all.
For those babies and children who have more severe forms of spina bifida, there are a few different options to help alleviate symptoms. Typically, babies born with the most severe form of spina bifida (myelomeningocele) will need surgery within the first 48 hours of life. If they have an open spine, surgery will help to correct it. The nerve damage will remain, and can never fully be cured, but these surgeries can help to improve quality of life as the baby grows older.
Other treatment options include shunts, which can be placed in a baby's brain to help drain fluid. The fluid will be displaced to the abdomen and will not harm the child. Different surgeries can also occur to help strengthen the spinal cord and restore functions to any parts of the body that have been affected. Physical therapy can come into play to help children who suffer partial or full paralysis. Treatment for bladder or bowel issues also start not too long after birth.
Through the help of skilled medical professionals and physical therapists, babies born with spina bifida have great chances at full lives. If your baby was diagnosed with spina bifida, and you believe you might have a case – give the Pittsburgh office of Edgar Snyder & Associates a call at 412-394-1000.
Can You Prevent Spina Bifida?
The prevention of any birth defect or disorder comes with no guarantees, but there are ways that a mother can help her baby's chances of not developing spina bifida. Here are a few tips if you're a mom-to-be who wants to avoid spina bifida risk factors:
Focus on folic acid: Folic acid, in dosages of 400 mcg, are proven to help mothers have safer pregnancies. Use this supplement within the early weeks of pregnancy.
Work on your diet: Getting folic acid through foods such as leafy greens, citrus fruits, and beans can also help your body absorb it better. Having a healthy diet on top of that is a great way to ensure a smoother pregnancy, too.
Diabetes and obesity: Women who have diabetes, or are obese, do have an increased risk of neural tube birth defects –which include spina bifida. Better controlling your blood sugar, and getting your weight to a healthy level, can only help you.
It's hard to quantify exact spina bifida causes, because many factors come into play. But with our prevention tips, you'll give yourself and your baby a better chance at a great life.
How Early in Pregnancy Can You Detect Spina Bifida?
With a spina bifida diagnosis, mothers don't have to wait until birth to find out that something is wrong. Spina bifida can be diagnosed in utero by either a blood test or an ultrasound as early as the second trimester (16-18 weeks gestation). Treating the most severe form of spina bifida (myelomeningocele) early can help quality of life down the line.
As for other tests and evaluations for spina bifida symptoms in babies, there are prenatal tests that are done on women that can indicate that spina bifida could be evident. A "triple screen" test includes measuring for MSAFP (maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein). If that level is high, the mother has a greater chance to be carrying a baby with spina bifida or another neural tube defect. Amniotic fluid testing can also help determine if a spina bifida diagnosis is in the future.
Some medical centers can perform fetal surgery while the baby is still in the uterus. This procedure comes with risks, as all do, but correcting the defect as early as possible can provide better outcomes for the baby. The procedure itself can't restore any lost neurological functions – but it can help to keep them from getting worse.
It's an experimental surgery, but could be worth exploring. There are major risks to the baby if the surgery causes early labor – and there are risks for the mother, including blood loss or infection. The benefits, though, can be great and help decrease the baby's severity of symptoms.
X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans and MRIs can all help to detect new or worsening spina bifida complications once a baby is born. If you believe a doctor or medical professional missed warning signs for spina bifida, or another neural tube defect, call the Pittsburgh office of Edgar Snyder & Associates today at 412-394-1000.
Is Spina Bifida Considered a Disability?
Spina bifida can cause major barriers to normal childhood activities and make things difficult for adults when they're trying to gain employment. Due to those parameters, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does allow children and adults to qualify for benefits due to spina bifida disability.
In the Social Security Disability world, there are certain medical records that must match to certain conditions. Spina bifida is not a named listing in SSD – but those suffering from this birth defect can quality for benefits under other listings.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Spina Bifida?
When your baby is born, you're just excited to hear them cry. But there are signs of spina bifida to look out for. A good doctor will be able to spot them. Some spina bifida symptoms are hardly detectable, while others are painfully obvious.
The symptoms and signs that alert to spina bifida are:
Not many symptoms are apparent at birth for this type of spina bifida. There are a few subtle indications though, such as abnormal tufts of hair above the spinal defect – or birthmarks or small dimples.
This type of spina bifida occurs when membranes around the spinal cord push through openings in the vertebrae. A sac forms – but it doesn't include the spinal cord.
Remember that this is the most severe form of spina bifida. In this case, the spinal canal remains exposed along the lower or middle back. The membranes and spinal cord/nerves push through openings at birth and form a sac. Sometimes the skin will cover the sac, but predominantly, tissue and nerves are exposed.
What Causes a Baby To Have Spina Bifida?
One baby is born perfectly healthy in a hospital. One room over, another baby faces a lifetime of medical complications. If you've ever stopped to wonder, "how do babies get spina bifida?" the answers may disappoint you. It's never entirely cut and dry.
Firstly, genetic and environmental factors come into play. If a baby's mother has been exposed to harmful substances, or lacks proper nutrition – or just has a hereditary disposition to this birth defect – then those are reasons why a baby can develop spina bifida.
There has been proof that spina bifida can run in families: having a child with spina bifida can increase chances that another child will have the same disorder by 8 times. 95% of the time, though, there's no family history to speak of. There's also possibility of a newborn being majorly deficient in folic acid. Folic acid plays an important role in warding off birth defects in newborns. As you can see, the causes vary and there's no exact way to pinpoint the cause.
If your baby was born with spina bifida, and there was no family history or indication that something could be wrong – you might have a case. Contact Edgar Snyder & Associates to talk through your situation at 412-394-1000.
When Can You Detect Spina Bifida?
Detection of spina bifida can be done in utero – so before the baby is even born. The earliest tests can be done during the second trimester, which is around 16-18 weeks gestation. Through blood testing, amniocentesis and fetal surgery, doctors are able to gauge whether spina bifida, or another neural tube defect, might be a problem.
Early detection can be the difference between a high quality of life or a life full of struggles. Be open with your doctor about your own health during pregnancy. If there's a suspicion that your baby may be born unhealthy – early detection can be key.
Spina Bifida is Serious — Contact Edgar Snyder & Associates Today
Your baby deserves the best start at life that they can get. If there's ever a worry that a birth defect was missed by a doctor or medical professional, call us. We have a team of attorneys and staff who understand how to deal with medical malpractice and birth injury cases. You want the best for your baby, and so do we.
The statute of limitations on birth injuries requires timely action. In Pennsylvania, any birth injury claim must be filed within two years from the time of injury. Of course, sometimes parents may not be aware of their child's injury until later in life. In that case, the statute specifies that a claim must be filed after direct discovery of the injury.
Time is of the essence in cases like these. Medical costs and lost wages can add up when you're caring for a child who has suffered a birth injury like spina bifida. The money required to keep up with physical therapies, medical intervention and other necessities can be draining on parents. Filing a birth injury claim and gaining a settlement can help to ease the financial burden. All you have to do is take the first step.
Call the Pittsburgh office of Edgar Snyder & Associates today for a free case review. Let us help your family move forward with your lives. Get a free consultation today by calling 412-394-1000.
- Mayo Clinic - Spina Bifida
- NINDS - Spina Bifida Fact Sheet
- The Spine Hospital at The Neurological Institute of New York - Spina Bifida
- Disability Benefits Help - Spina Bifida and Disability Benefits
- UCSF - Spina Bifida Treatment
- eMedicine Health - Spina Bifida
- Birth Injury Guide - Statute of Limitations on Birth Injuries