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Hypotonia in Infants: Signs, Causes and Medical Negligence

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Perhaps you worried when your baby was having trouble feeding and hung limply in your arms. A physical examination may have revealed weak muscle tone throughout the baby’s body. The doctor explained that further testing was necessary for a diagnosis of suspected hypotonia. So what is hypotonia in infants? What are the signs and symptoms? What causes it? Are there treatments and therapies available? Can babies recover from hypotonia? What if medical negligence at, or surrounding the time of your child’s birth may have played a role in their “floppy baby syndrome” and the underlying source of these physical manifestations? These questions and more may be haunting you right now.

If so, this provides you with a more thorough understanding of some of the important information to know about infant hypotonia. It also delves into the connection between hypotonia and birth injuries, and explores the legal pathways that may be available to parents whose child was diagnosed with hypotonia and any associated condition such as cerebral palsy after medical errors occurred in their prenatal, childbirth, or postnatal care.

Hypotonia: Knowing What it is and Recognizing the Signs

Hypotonia is defined by a lack of muscle tone. It can be inherited or a symptom of another condition, such as cerebral palsy, Tay Sachs disease, Down Syndrome, muscular dystrophy, or other degenerative diseases. Physicians typically diagnose it in infants when a first or second checkup reveals a floppy infant whose limbs hang limply, like a rag doll. As they grow, they may miss milestones like holding up their head while on their stomach or rolling over. As babies and into early childhood, they may have trouble sucking, chewing, swallowing, breathing, or speaking. They may also have poor balance, reflexes, and coordination. Their mouth may hang open, and they suffer loose joints or jaw dislocations.

Potential Causes of Infant Hypotonia

The poor muscle tone that marks infant hypotonia results from problems with the signals running from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles. A healthy body’s resting muscles contract or tense when brain signals reach the muscles after some stimulus. So, when someone presses on your motionless arm (stimulus), your arm muscles contract in reaction to or as resistance to the pressure. Damage to the central nervous system can interrupt those signals, causing hypotonia. Brain, spinal cord, nerve, or muscle damage may result from a traumatic brain injury, genetic disorder, or disease. This CNS damage resulting in a baby’s decreased muscle tone and underlying condition may happen during the fetal development in the gestational period, in the midst of childbirth or the time extending through labor and delivery, or in the immediate aftermath of the child’s birth.

For example, a baby who was deprived of oxygen during delivery may suffer brain damage or cerebral palsy, with hypotonia as one of the symptoms. Additionally, a birth injury may cause nerve, spinal cord, or brain damage that interrupts muscle signals, resulting in poor muscle tone. For instance, a baby delivered by birth instruments sometimes suffers brain or nerve damage that affects neurological pathways in the brain. However, Down Syndrome, like muscular dystrophy or Tay Sachs disease, is a genetic disorder characterized by various symptoms, including hypotonia. An infection such as meningitis, injuries and conditions related to prematurity, spinal cord injury, or hypothyroidism may also cause a floppy baby. In certain cases, the cause remains unknown.

Diagnostic Process for Newborn Hypotonia

A hypotonia diagnosis begins with a physical examination. Your child’s doctor may feel the soft muscles and observe your baby’s muscles failing to respond to pinching or pressing. Depending on the child’s age, they may observe absent motor skills, like sitting up or holding objects, and test motor reflexes and sensory reactions. A family history of genetic disorders may also reveal a possible condition causing hypotonia. From there, a physician may order CT or MRI scans, muscle-testing electromyograms, or genetic tests to confirm a diagnosis.

Treatment and Management of Hypotonia in Babies and Children

A doctor must confirm the cause of hypotonia to find the proper treatment. For example, a diagnosis of cerebral palsy directs a physician to the appropriate treatment. For some conditions, the only treatment is addressing the symptoms. A health care provider may prescribe therapists to work with the patient’s motor skills, coordination, speech, breathing, sensory, and swallowing problems. More drastic measures may be appropriate for a baby who cannot eat, in which case they may need a feeding tube.

Can a Baby’s Hypotonia be Cured?

Unfortunately, hypotonia has no cure. However, treating symptoms of hypotonia and the underlying condition can improve a child’s life as symptoms improve. Although hypotonia is not a disability, the condition causing it may be. For example, cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that may leave a child incapable of leading an everyday life without caretakers and medical devices for speech, nutrition, and mobility. A sufferer may need speech, occupational, and other therapies indefinitely.

What Role can Medical Malpractice Play in Neonatal Hypotonia?

The most unfortunate cause of hypotonia is medical malpractice. The results can be costly when a health care provider negligently causes the underlying condition through substandard medical practice at birth or during pregnancy. For instance, when a healthcare team neglects to monitor a fetus during a long labor and delivery closely, they may not discover fetal distress. A baby may suffer oxygen deprivation or a stroke that causes brain damage under the strain of childbirth. Other birth injuries occur when an obstetrician allows difficult labor to go on too long or misuses birth instruments to assist a difficult birth. And an untreated infection during pregnancy can lead to preterm birth and related injuries. These faulty medical decisions and actions may result in brain, spinal cord, or nerve damage leading to conditions of which hypotonia is a symptom.

My Baby was Diagnosed with Hypotonia due to Suspected Negligence, Now What?

You are strongly advised to consult an experienced birth injury lawyer if your child’s diagnosis of hypotonia from an underlying condition may have been caused by medical malpractice. If insufficient or improper medical decisions, mistakes, or general care in your pregnancy or child’s birth supports a medical malpractice claim, you may be able to obtain financial compensation for economic, physical, and mental damages. After all, your child may need long-term, even lifelong, treatment with various therapists, nurses, medications, medical devices, and home accommodations. These can be expensive, even with insurance, making a successful settlement or jury award in a birth injury lawsuit all the more vital to your child’s future and your family.

You may need help as a full-time caregiver of your child. You may have endless doctor appointments to attend, medications to pick up, and a packed schedule of therapists to coordinate. You may become overwhelmed caring for your child and fulfilling all your family’s financial and other obligations. You deserve relief from the burdens someone else caused, and you may find it by getting the proper legal help and representation. In a successful lawsuit, the responsible party or parties must compensate you for your monetary losses connected with the child’s condition, the child’s pain and suffering, and future medical and care-needs for the child’s lifetime.

Take Action with a Birth Injury Legal Team’s Free Case Review

If you suspect doctors or other medical personnel contributed to your child’s hypotonia, contact our highly skilled birth injury attorneys today at (866)-708-8617.  With our extensive experience litigating complex birth injury lawsuits, we can give you insights into the challenges ahead, how we can take action to investigate your baby’s hypotonia, the many strategies that we use to support the strengths of your child’s case, and map out a legal course through the negotiations and trial procedures that we handle every day. Our connections in the medical community with powerful experts, particularly those in the prenatal, obstetrical, and pediatric realm, can bolster your claim’s success as we work to recover the compensation you and your child deserve.

Consult with our lawyers serving all of New Jersey and consulting on birth injury claims across the country to analyze your case and review your options. You may rest a little easier when you have additional information and place your trust in experienced legal representation.


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