In Texas and across the U.S., many infants born prematurely suffer a brain injury called periventricular leukomalacia, or PVL. The ventricles, or fluid-filled areas, of the brain are fragile before 32 weeks of gestation, and changes to blood flow in these areas can easily lead to PVL. Infection during delivery is another possible cause of PVL.
PVL is a form of brain damage where parts of the brain tissue surrounding the ventricles die and create "holes" in the brain. As a consequence, the baby may experience developmental delays, usually around the first and second years of life. The condition may also lead to cerebral palsy, especially muscle tightness and spasticity in the leg muscles.
Issues with the nervous system are also frequently reported; for example, the baby may have a limited ability to sit, crawl, walk or move the arms and may require physical therapy. Extremely premature babies with PVL are more likely to incur learning disabilities.
PVL cannot be treated, but doctors can monitor premature babies in an intensive care unit for signs of PVL. Monitoring covers the baby's heart, lung, intestine and kidney functions. It should ideally be done by a developmental pediatrician or pediatric neurologist. A pediatrician can perform regular exams of the baby afterwards.
If parents believe that their baby incurred PVL because of the negligence of a doctor or nurse, they may want to speak with a lawyer who works in birth injury law. It can be hard to link the negligence to the injuries, especially if the delivery was a difficult one, but a lawyer may bring in investigators to gather as much evidence against the defendant as possible. A successful birth injury claim might cover past and future medical expenses, including the cost of rehabilitative care and any medical equipment that the child will need.