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Low APGAR Score Linked to Cerebral Palsy

Kingston Personal Injury Attorney

Affecting over 800,000 Americans, cerebral palsy – a non-progressive neurological condition – affects a person’s ability to control muscles and mobility. While there are many possible causes, a recent study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) reports that low APGAR scores may be an indicator of cerebral palsy birth injury.

When babies are delivered, doctors use a number of methods to assess their condition. One of the most common (and relatively simple) screening tools is the APGAR score. Evaluating an infant’s complexion, pulse rate, stimuli reactions, muscle tone and breathing, doctors can determine whether a newborn needs assistance adjusting to the extra-uterine environment. Low APGARs result when a baby has breathing difficulties, loose or floppy muscle tone, low or no heart rate, and/or bluish skin tone.

In the BMJ study, researchers reviewed the birth records found in Norway’s Medical Birth Registry during the years 1986 and 1995. Evidence revealed that 1.8 in 1000 children were diagnosed with cerebral palsy before age five, and that 11 percent of the children born with APGAR scores less than three were diagnosed with the neurological condition. The study concluded that cerebral palsy causes were linked to factors that reduce infant vitality.

The Norway research is not the only significant study regarding APGARs. In 2007, the Archives of Disease in Children’s Fetal and Neonatal Edition reported that low APGARs were associated with increased risk for lower cognitive functioning. This same study also found a strong association between severely low APGAR scores and risks of cerebral palsy.

Causes of cerebral palsy may include infections, brain hemorrhages, asphyxiations, jaundice, and head trauma. However, complications during delivery or intra-partum events are also associated with cerebral palsy. Many states have special birth injury funds that address this specific cause of neurological injury.

To reduce the risk of this incurable condition, medical professionals may need to be more proactive with monitoring expectant mothers to reduce risks for brain injuries to children. And prospective parents should seek competent prenatal and pediatric care for their children to ensure healthy development.