Spasticity as a Result of Medical Malpractice

What Is Spasticity?

Spasticity is a condition in which the muscles of the body repeatedly tighten and release. The muscles eventually become stiff and tight which interferes with movement, gait and speech. Caused by damage to the spinal cord or brain in the area that controls movement, spasticity changes the balance of signals between the spinal cord and the muscles. The wrong signals are sent, causing the muscles to contract and release at the wrong times.

Causes of Spasticity

Spasticity affects as many as 15 million people all over the world. Most people with spasticity have cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. It can also be brought on by a number of other issues, including:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Stroke
  • Encephalitis
  • Meningitis
  • Adrenoleukodystrophy
  • Spinal cord injury (SCI)
  • Brain damage due to a lack of oxygen
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease)
  • Phenylketonuria

Symptoms of Spasticity

Spasticity can be mild or extreme. Symptoms manifest as jerking, joint contractures, muscle contractions, stiff muscles or hypertonicity, and scissoring or involuntary crossing and re-crossing of the legs. These symptoms can be mildly to severely painful. They can interfere and even completely stop everyday life. Often, other issues accompany this illness. Sufferers may also experience:

  • Chronic urinary tract infections
  • Prolonged constipation
  • Fever or other general illnesses regularly
  • Bedsores or pressure sores

Treating Spasticity

There are a variety of treatment options depending on several key factors. Treatment depends on age of patient and cause and severity of spasticity. Each case is unique and requires a specified treatment strategy. The goal of all treatment plans is to reduce the symptoms and pain associated with spasticity, improve movement, walk, speech and daily living, and enable normal muscle growth. There are a number of drugs prescribed for treatment of this malady including baclofen (Lioresal), tizanidine (Zanaflex), dantrolene (Dantrium), Diazepam (Valium), and Clonazepam (Klonopin).

Occupational and physical therapy is also used in treatment of spasticity. It helps to reduce muscle tone and increase strength and coordination, and improve range of motion. Temporary casts and braces may be employed as well as strengthening exercises and limb positioning.

Botox injections and surgery are also options depending on the case specifics. Injecting botox into the spastic muscles effectively paralyses them for a time. It blocks the release of acetylcholine and relaxes the muscles for 12 – 16 weeks. There are two surgeries associated with spasticity; neurosurgical procedures and selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR).

Spasticity as a Birth Injury

Babies often experience spasticity as a result of brain trauma, especially during a difficult birth. If the attending physician used forceps or excess force in the delivery, the baby could have received traumatic brain injury. Large babies sometimes get stuck in the birth canal and require strong manipulation to come out. If the mother’s hips do not spread wide enough, the infants shoulder may lodge behind the pelvic bone and require forceps and other birthing tools to be born. Injuries to mother and child often occur in situations like these. Cerebral palsy, erb’s palsy and muscular dystrophy may play a part in spasticity as well. Medical malpractice may come into play depending on the circumstances of the case.