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Periventricular Leukomalacia

Periventricular leukomalacia is an irreversible birth injury to the brain that can cause developmental and motor skill delays. In severe cases, infants with the condition develop cerebral palsy. While periventricular leukomalacia isn’t always preventable, medical negligence can contribute to its development. Birth Injury Center explains periventricular leukomalacia, its risk factors and symptoms, and the various treatments available.

One of life’s great joys is experiencing your child’s birth. Welcoming a new baby to your family is the beginning of a journey to raise them and share in their lives as they move from infancy to childhood, the teenage years, and eventually adulthood.

Unfortunately, serious health complications can arise before or during birth. Occasionally, fetuses and newborns experience a brain injury, such as periventricular leukomalacia. Children who suffer from periventricular leukomalacia may encounter lifelong complications that impact their motor skills, cognitive abilities, and vision. Birth Injury Center explains what you need to know about the condition.

What Is Periventricular Leukomalacia?

Periventricular leukomalacia is an infant brain injury that occurs most commonly during the third trimester of pregnancy. It causes the death of white brain matter, which impacts the ability of nerves to control physical movement. Babies with periventricular leukomalacia may develop cognitive impairment and vision problems, and they may suffer from jerky movements of the arms and legs.

Occasionally, babies with periventricular leukomalacia experience hemorrhaging or bleeding in the brain, which can result in cerebral palsy.

Babies born prematurely are at the most risk of periventricular leukomalacia, although the condition can develop in any fetus or newborn. Unfortunately, periventricular leukomalacia is irreversible. However, some treatments can improve the child’s quality of life.

What Are the Risk Factors for Periventricular Leukomalacia?

The main cause of periventricular leukomalacia is damaged brain tissue caused by a lack of blood flow. Certain risk factors can increase the chances of a newborn developing the condition, including the following:

One study from the University of Crete found that babies born to mothers who experienced preeclampsia or premature rupture of membranes were more likely to suffer from periventricular leukomalacia.

What Are the Symptoms of Periventricular Leukomalacia?

If your newborn has periventricular leukomalacia, you may not notice any symptoms until six to nine months after birth, when an infant’s motor skills develop. A child with leukomalacia typically displays developmental and motor skills delays, which worsen as time passes.

A few of the most common symptoms of periventricular leukomalacia are:

Symptoms of periventricular leukomalacia can vary widely depending on the severity of the condition and your child’s age.

How Is Periventricular Leukomalacia Diagnosed?

Parents who notice concerning symptoms in their infant must seek assistance from a medical provider immediately. The physician will start the diagnosis process by reviewing your child’s medical history and inquiring about their symptoms. Afterward, they’ll conduct a physical exam to check your baby’s motor skills, vision, and hearing.

If the medical provider suspects a brain injury such as periventricular leukomalacia, they may order other tests. Diagnostic tools such as magnetic resonance imaging and a cranial ultrasound can check for abnormalities in your child’s brain tissue, such as bruising, scarring, cysts, or hollow areas.

Some children will experience mild developmental delays, while others may be more severe. Even if your child’s symptoms appear very minor, it’s best to seek assistance from a qualified physician. An early diagnosis allows you to access treatment, which can improve your child’s long-term prognosis.

What Treatments Are Available for Periventricular Leukomalacia?

Unfortunately, periventricular leukomalacia is irreversible. Once brain white matter becomes damaged, it can’t be repaired. However, a broad range of treatment options can reduce symptoms and improve your child’s quality of life.

Most treatment options fall into one of three categories:

A combination of all three treatments may be necessary depending on the severity of your child’s condition. A qualified physician can determine which treatments are most beneficial for improving quality of life.

Preventing Periventricular Leukomalacia

It’s not always possible to prevent periventricular leukomalacia. However, mothers can take certain actions to mitigate risk factors that increase the chances of their baby suffering from the condition.

Adequate prenatal care that begins early in a pregnancy can reduce the likelihood of a low birth weight or premature birth. Eating a well-balanced diet and avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, and drug use is essential. If you’re at risk of preeclampsia, ensure you follow a regular exercise routine and get enough sleep.

Mothers need to notify their OBGYNs of any infections they have. A medical provider can prescribe the appropriate medication or treatments to reduce the chances of neonatal transmission. Expectant mothers must take care when preparing food, regularly wash their hands, and avoid handling animal feces since it may contain parasites. It’s also critical to practice safe sex to avoid any STDs that may pass to the baby.

If your baby suffers hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy during childbirth, the doctor may try to prevent the severity of brain damage by ordering whole-body cooling. A cooling treatment can reduce the risk of death and future disability associated with periventricular leukomalacia.

While you may follow all your doctor’s instructions and do your best to stay healthy, periventricular leukomalacia is unpredictable. Things outside your control can harm your baby, such as mistakes made by medical providers during childbirth. That’s why speaking with a birth injury attorney is critical. They can help you determine the cause of your baby’s condition and the legal options available.

Periventricular Leukomalacia Prognosis

If your child has periventricular leukomalacia, your doctor will explain the condition and the next steps you need to take. An important part of the diagnosis is evaluating the child’s ability to perform basic skills as they grow older. You’ll likely receive referrals to specialists who can start treatment options, including speech, physical, and occupational therapists.

Since periventricular leukomalacia is a severe condition with lifelong implications, it’s a good idea to seek a second opinion, even if your doctor seems certain of their diagnosis. Other conditions, including periventricular venous infarction and diffuse white matter gliosis, can mimic symptoms of periventricular leukomalacia.

A long-term care plan may be necessary and can help you understand your child’s symptoms as they arise. Some symptoms may become more visible as your child continues to grow. A qualified medical provider can help you manage your expectations and ensure your child sees the proper specialists for treatment.

Getting Help for Periventricular Leukomalacia Due to Medical Negligence

Medical negligence sometimes contributes to or causes a child’s periventricular leukomalacia. A medical provider’s improper actions before or during childbirth can harm your baby and result in an unforeseen brain injury. While you can’t reverse their condition, you can seek legal advice to determine your options.

A medical negligence lawsuit for a birth injury such as periventricular leukomalacia can help you recover monetary damages to pay for your child’s medical bills and future treatments. Caring for a child with periventricular leukomalacia can be very expensive. Any compensation you win can be a step toward ensuring they receive the care they deserve.

Birth Injury Center can connect you with experienced, highly qualified attorneys specializing in medical negligence. Contact us today to schedule a free case review.

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Written by:
Birth Injury Center Team

The Birth Injury Center aims to create informational web content and guides to help women and their families seeking support and guidance for birth injuries caused by medical negligence. All of the content published across The Birth Injury Center website has been thoroughly investigated and approved by medical expert Natalie Speer, RNC-OB, Attorney Ryan Mahoney, and Attorney Rick Meadows.