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About the Pediatric Neurosurgery Fund
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Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a broad term that describes a group of neurological (brain) disorders that is a life-long condition without any cure. The communication between the brain and muscles of the body are impaired resulting in uncoordinated movements and posturing. CP may be mild in some children where they are still able to walk independently or severe where the child may be wheelchair dependent.

What causes Cerebral Palsy?

Many cases of CP have unknown causes. CP is the result of abnormal development or damage to areas in the brain that control motor function. It is estimated to affect two to three babies out of every 1,000 live births.

Risk factors for CP may include prematurity, especially with a low birth weight, bleeding within the brain, trauma, infection, chemical/substance use during the prenatal period, and complicated labor & delivery.

What are the symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?

The following are the most common symptoms of CP, however, each child may experience symptoms differently.

Most children with CP are diagnosed after birth when symptoms such as delayed developmental milestones or poor motor control are noted by the pediatrician. Overtime, the muscles may become stiff especially in the arms and legs, also called spasticity.

Cerebral palsy is usually classified according to the kind of motor function the child may have, including the following:
  • Spastic Diplegia (“di” means two) – spastic movements of the arms or legs.
  • Spastic Quadriplegia (“quad” means four) – spastic movements in all four limbs (arms and legs).
  • Spastic Hemiplegia (“hemi” means half) – spasticity affecting one half, or side, of the body (such as right arm and right leg).
  • Athetoid - involuntary (unable to control), purposeless, and rigid movement.
Children with CP may also have additional health conditions such as seizures, strabismus, respiratory issues, bladder/bowel problems, bone abnormalities, hearing or speech issues, and learning disabilities.

How is Cerebral Palsy diagnosed?

The diagnosis of CP is made with a complete and thorough physical examination. During the examination, the physician obtains a complete prenatal and birth history of the child. The diagnosis of CP is not usually made until the child is at least six to 12 months old. This is the time when the child should be achieving developmental milestones, such as walking, and hand and head control. Diagnostic tests may include the following an MRI of the brain, Xrays of the spine or other parts of the body, an EEG, blood tests, and gait analysis (a highly specialized video of the child walking).

Treatment of Cerebral Palsy:

There is no cure for CP and goals of treatment are to minimize the complications and manage the symptoms associated. Therefore, a multidisciplinary health care team is involved to care for the child. The team will consist of a physiatrist (specialist in movement disorders), neurosurgeon, nurse practitioner and registered nurses, physical and occupational therapists, neurologists, speech and language pathologists, feeding and swallowing specialists, dieticians, audiologists, ophthalmologists, orthopedic surgeons, and orthotists.

Management of CP includes non-surgical and surgical options as is determined based upon the child’s specific condition.