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Children with Acute Neurological Conditions with Brain Damage Common, Study Says

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Neurological conditions are a significant danger affecting children from birth through adolescence. A recent international study found that 16 percent of children in pediatric intensive care units (ICUs) have acute neurological conditions with brain damage resulting from cardiac arrest, traumatic brain injury, or other causes.

The study, published in Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, was intended to evaluate the prevalence of neurological injuries and associated outcomes among pediatric patients in intensive care units. Called the PANGEA study, which stands for Prevalence of Acute Critical Neurological Disease in Children: A Global Epidemiological Assessment, this research was conducted over a period of four days during a one-year period.

Study participants included 107 intensive care units in hospitals across the world. Almost 90 percent of the participating hospitals were located in North America and Europe, with several others in South America, Asia, and Africa. In total, participating intensive care units provided information on 924 patients with ages ranging from 7 days to 17-years-old. Among the pediatric patients in these ICU’s, 16.2% were diagnosed with acute neurological conditions.

Childhood Neurological Conditions

The term “neurologic disorder” refers to a medical condition caused by a dysfunction in some part of the brain or nervous system. Neurological conditions can cause cognitive, physical, emotional, and/or behavioral symptoms. The PANGEA study sought to identify the causes and prevalence of neurological conditions, including: traumatic brain injury, stroke, cardiac arrest, Central Nervous System (CNS) infections or inflammation, status epilepticus, spinal cord injuries, hydrocephalus, and brain masses/tumors.

Of the 924 children with acute neurological conditions, 61% had normal neurological status (meaning no pre-existing conditions) before their current hospital admission. As for the causes of their neurological disorders, the most common (23%) experienced cardiac arrest which resulted in lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Children with cardiac arrest had the highest rates of mortality (24%).

The second-most common cause was traumatic brain injury (19%) and patients with TBI had the most unfavorable outcomes (49%). Central nervous system infection or inflammation accounted for 16% of cases. In South America, Asia, and Africa, infection/inflammation was the leading cause of neurological conditions. The smallest percentage of cases were caused by stroke or a mass, such as a brain tumor (9% each).

Outcomes in Children with Neurologic Disorders

Among the children with acute neurological conditions, 12% died as a result of their injuries. Another 32% suffered moderate to severe neurological disability within 3 months. All of the children had lengthier stays in the hospital and ICU, with an average of 22 days in the hospital and 13 days averaged in the intensive care unit.

The study’s lead investigator, Ericka L. Fink, MD, MS, of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, said the following with regard to the study results: “Children with acute neurologic insults are common in ICU’s and are associated with high morbidity and mortality rates and prolonged ICU stays, posing significant challenges to public, family, and individual health.”

Neurological Injury and Pediatric Malpractice

Unfortunately, medical negligence is a common contributor to acute neurological conditions in infants and children. Whether a doctor failed to diagnose an infection, failed to recognize respiratory distress, failed to diagnose symptoms that led to a stroke, or failed to treat a traumatic brain injury in a timely manner, there are a myriad of ways in which medical mistakes can cause serious, permanent harm. When a pediatrician or another medical professional makes an error in your child’s treatment leading to injury, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim.

With offices in Newark, our highly experienced New Jersey pediatric malpractice attorneys advocate for children and their families in Bergen County, Essex County, Passaic County, Morris County, Middlesex County, and throughout New Jersey. If your child suffered brain damage at a hospital in New Jersey, contact us today at (866)-708-8617 to arrange a free consultation. You can also contact us online.

For more information related to this issue, access the following article: Worldwide survey finds 16 percent rate of acute neurological conditions in critically ill children

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