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Periventricular leukomalacia: what it is

Expectant mothers in Texas should be aware of the most common type of brain injury that occurs among premature infants: periventricular leukomalacia. It is a condition where the periventricular white matter, located around the sides and top of the brain, is damaged.

The damage leads to cell death and the building up of fluid in those areas where the dead cells have broken down. These cells are supposed to control various physical and mental actions, and the connection that the white matter has to both brain and spinal cord allows the body to move smoothly. PVL can result in mental and physical impairment, including language disabilities, hearing disorders, strabismus and spasticity.

Causes range from low blood pressure to a lack of oxygen or carbon dioxide within the blood. In cases where infants are not born prematurely, conditions like amniotic fluid infections can raise the risk for PVL. The risk for PVL is highest in those born before 32 weeks with a birth weight lower than 3.3. pounds.

A cranial ultrasound, CT scan or MRI can detect the condition. As for treatments, there is nothing that can reverse cell death, but there are ways to treat the symptoms, such as physical therapy, massage therapy and certain medications.

There are preventative measures that at-risk mothers can take, including eating healthy and avoiding alcohol, nicotine and excessive caffeine consumption. A responsible doctor will monitor an at-risk mother. However, many cases of birth injuries are due to a doctor's failure to live up to the generally accepted standards of medical care. If it's clear that the doctor was negligent, the parents of an injured infant may be able to seek compensation. Parents may want to consult with a medical malpractice attorney.

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