Infant Cervical Dystonia, Infant Torticollis, and Infant Dystonia Disorder
The information you need to make good decisions
Many conditions that affect a baby’s health can stem from problems that occurred during childbirth. The labor and delivery process can be quite complex and require intensive supervision and monitoring, as well as timely intervention when risks to the mother’s or baby’s health is apparent. The consequences can be devastating when medical professionals fail in their duty to carry out their responsibilities properly during the labor and delivery process. A wide range of health issues can affect the infant when medical negligence or malpractice occurs – these include Infant Cervical Dystonia, Infant Torticollis, and Infant Dystonia Disorder.
Infant cervical dystonia
The neurological medical condition called infant cervical dystonia, also referred to as spasmodic torticollis, is manifested when the neck of the baby snaps backward and contracts involuntarily. When this occurs, the baby’s head moves to one side, forwards, and backwards – this can induce moderate to intense pain in the infant. Although this condition can occur at any age, when an infant requires cervical dystonia, it is often connected with birth trauma of some nature.
Symptoms of infant cervical dystonia
As the neck of the infant snaps back and the head moves forward and back, the little one may also experience the following symptoms
- Jerking motion of the head
- An ear leaning toward the shoulder on the same side
- The chin pulling down, up, or towards the shoulder
Causes and risk factors of infant cervical dystonia
Doctors are not always certain what causes cervical dystonia. However, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NIH) reports that infant cervical dystonia has been connected to birth injuries that lead to neonatal brain hemorrhaging and hypoxia.
Shoulder dystocia is a birth injury that occurs when the infant’s shoulders become lodged against the mother’s pelvic bone during labor and delivery. The baby may develop hypoxia if he or she remains stuck in this position for too long.
Infant cervical dystonia has also been connected with brachial plexus injuries.
Other issues such as stroke, trauma, certain infections, and medications including antipsychotic and anti-nausea drugs have also been associated with cervical dystonia.
Treatment options for infant cervical dystonia
No medical cure exists at the present time for infant cervical dystonia. However a number of treatment options may be administered to help lessen any pain and discomfort that babies experience. These include:
- Neck braces
- Physical therapy
- Medications (pain relievers or muscle relaxants)
- Deep brain stimulation (through a wire placed into the area of the brain controls movement)
- Surgery (i.e. denervation surgery that cuts the muscles and nerves producing the dystonia)
- Home remedies such as sensory touching and heating packs on the neck to help the baby get proper rest
Also referred to as “loxia” or “wry neck”, infant torticollis occurs when the baby’s neck is twisted, causing the head to tip to one side as the chin points up. The condition can result from birth trauma. It can also develop later in childhood due to illness or an accident. Symptoms must be diagnosed early in order to facilitate prompt treatment.
Symptoms of infant torticollis
The symptoms of infant torticollis are similar in most cases, but they range in severity. Not every infant with the condition will experience all of the following symptoms listed below. However, these symptoms are common in babies:
- Stiffness in the neck muscle
- Tremors of the head
- Continually leaning the head in one direction
- Awkward position of the chin pointing upward
- Headaches (not easily detectable with infants)
- Swelling of the neck muscle (often after birth)
- Neck pain
- One shoulder elevated higher than the other
Causes of infant torticollis
Infant torticollis can occur for a variety of reasons, including improper application of medical care and instruments during the delivery process. Some of the causes for infant torticollis include:
- Forceps assisted delivery injuries
- Vacuum extraction assisted delivery injuries
- Forceful pulling of the baby by the physician during delivery
- Abnormal birthing position, i.e. the breech position
- Misalignment of the spine while in utero
Acquired torticollis can occur due to the following:
- An accident (i.e. falling from an elevated position)
- Excessive time lying down or confined to a stroller, car seat, or bouncer
- Grisel’s Syndrome
In some cases, infant torticollis is inherited rather than the result of birth injury medical malpractice or other cause.
Treatment for infant torticollis
When an infant is diagnosis with torticollis at birth, the baby may benefit from a particular type of stretching exercise that stretches the shortened muscle on the affected side of the neck. This stretching technique is referred to as passive stretching and is used to help reposition the debilitated neck muscle. For infants below the age of three months, stretching may be the only viable option to treat infant torticollis.
If stretching techniques fail to address the condition, surgery may be the other medical alternative available. However, often surgery is not performed until preschool age (or about four years of age).
If the torticollis developed due to nervous system, muscle, or spine damage, one or more of the treatments below may be helpful:
- Traction, heat, and massage therapy for the spine
- Botulinum injections on a regular basis (often every three months)
- Neck brace
Infant dystonia disorder
Dystonia disorder affects the muscles. It is known to cause slow involuntary movements and postures, as well as writhing produced by the muscles. The disorder is actually neurological in nature and occurs due to miscommunication between the nerves and the brain.
Infant dystonia disorder can occur due to genetics or as a result of a birth injury involving neonatal brain damage or hypoxia, which is when the brain does not receive adequate oxygen and suffers damage.
Acquired dystonia occurs when the disorder develops through birth injury. Other ways in which infant dystonia disorder can occur include negative reactions to certain drugs, infections, or carbon monoxide or lead poisoning.
Symptoms of infant dystonia disorder
Additional symptoms of infant dystonia disorder beyond uncontrolled muscle movement include foot cramps, dragging the leg, uncontrolled blinking, and involuntary muscle pulling in the neck.
Only one side of the body is usually affected by symptoms of infant dystonia disorder. As well, the symptoms usually alleviate within about five years. However, any other injuries sustained in the intervening period can irritate the condition and make the symptoms worse.
Difference from cerebral palsy
Dystonia is similar to cerebral palsy in that both conditions can initiate from neonatal brain hemorrhage or hypoxia. As well, both conditions have similar symptoms which involve slow writhing motions, repetitious or abnormal muscle movements, and paralysis.
However, cerebral palsy begins in the brain and affects the entire body and its movements. Also, in some cases, it produces cognitive disabilities. Dystonia disorder, on the other hand, involves having a muscle disorder, but rarely involves cognitive disability.
Treatment for dystonia disorder
No medical cure for dystonia disorder exists at the present time. However, therapists and physicians working with the Dystonia Foundation have developed certain types of treatment options for the condition.
Options for treatment can include oral medications, nondrug therapies, surgery, injected medications, and complementary therapies. The type of treatment recommended will match the nature and severity of the dystonia as well as the ability of the patient to handle the treatment. Infant patients, for instance, may be easier to treat with an injected medication than with physical therapy.
These are many of the injuries our clients’ children have sustained
Recovering compensation for your child’s birth injury
At Crandall & Pera Law, we understand the devastation you and your family may feel after your child has suffered a birth injury. We are here to advocate on your behalf, whether your child is suffering from dystonia, torticollis, or any other type of debilitating condition acquired from birth. We can review your child’s case thoroughly and using our resources and experience determine your right to recover compensation for your family’s losses. To get started with a free consultation in Kentucky or Ohio, call our office today at 877.955.0020 or simply fill out our contact form.