Cerebral Palsy (CP) Diagnosis & Treatments

Many risk factors can lead to cerebral palsy (CP). It is often diagnosed between six and 24 months of age, when children begin to fail developmental milestones such as walking and coordinating hand and head motions. Typically, an initial examination by a neurologist or pediatrician involves gathering a detailed history of the mother’s pregnancy, as well as the child’s birth and early years.

Cerebral Palsy Risk Factors

There is no method to completely avoid cerebral palsy in a child, as sometimes unintentional trauma to the fetus, such as by a slip or fall, can cause damage leading to CP. However, parents and physicians may take a number of precautions to lower the chance of having a baby with cerebral palsy.

Prenatal checkups are essential for detecting any problems or cerebral palsy risk factors that might otherwise go unnoticed, such as incompatible blood types between the mother and child (known as Rh disease), and lower the chance of complications. Pregnant women can further lower their risks by:

  • Avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, recreational drugs and prescription medicines that have been linked to pregnancy complicationsAvoiding exposure to infections or viruses that are known to have a negative influence on fetal health (e.g., German measles, cytomegalovirus and Zika)
  • Managing underlying health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetesGetting vaccinations on a regular basis

Cerebral palsy can potentially be avoided by taking precautions during labor as well. 

The fetal vital signs will be monitored by medical personnel, who will choose the safest delivery strategy. Delays in seeking medical help at the onset of labor may raise a baby’s chances of having cerebral palsy at birth. Likewise, failure by medical personnel to take swift action if a baby’s health appears to be at risk during childbirth can lead to CP.

Prognosis for Cerebral Palsy

The long-term effects of cerebral palsy on a child’s mobility, development, and general quality of life hinge partly on when the diagnosis is made and when treatment can begin.  Assessment of a child’s motor abilities, reflexes, and developmental milestones can help doctors determine a prognosis.

Cerebral palsy has little effect on life expectancy. Adults with cerebral palsy can have happy lives, but there are several circumstances that might influence their prognosis. The include:

  • Eating and swallowing problems
  • Vision, hearing or speech impairments
  • Intellectual handicaps
  • Limitations in mobility
  • Disorders of the musculoskeletal system
  • Diseases of the lungs
  • Seizures

Depending on how the illness is managed, physical symptoms and motor abilities may improve or deteriorate over time. Physical and neurological symptoms can often be treated effectively to enhance a prognosis and control discomfort.

Options for Cerebral Palsy Treatment

  • Because CP affects children in different ways, your child’s therapy will be based on a variety of factors, including:Age, overall health, and medical history  The type of cerebral palsy they have, how severe their symptoms are, and how well particular medicines, procedures, or therapies are tolerated
  • Their cerebral palsy prognosis The treatment choices made by your family

Because cerebral palsy is a long-term condition with no cure, treatment focuses on:

  • Reducing the limitations of physical defects aximizing the child’s potential at home, school and in the community by boosting mobility and motion to the greatest degree possible

Prescribing medications that help in the treatment of symptoms related to cerebral palsy, like seizures

While medication cannot cure or treat CP, it can help control some of the symptoms. The following medications are available:

  • Antispasmodics to relieve muscle tension and reduce muscle spasms
  • Anticonvulsants to control or reduce seizures
  • Botulinum toxin injections or anticholinergics to treat muscle stiffness and uncontrolled drooling 

The following aids are frequently used in the treatment of CP:

Seating and positioning aids such as heelchairs, walkers and ergonomic chairs that promote good posture Orthotics such as braces and splits to safeguard and support your child’s limbs and torso, as well as to prevent deformityOne-of-a-kind eating or writing utensils to address problems with fine motor skills Communication aids for children who have difficulty hearing, understanding or conversing with others, includingspecialized picture books and posters, alphabet boards for spelling out messages, and computers with speech-recognition software

In rare cases, surgery may be an option for managing cerebral palsy symptoms. The following techniques may be used:

  • Orthopedic surgery to treat cerebral Palsy contractures if your child’s muscle spasms are affecting mobility, balance or coordination;  to elongate or release tight muscles and tendons to relieve spasticityaddress scoliosis, hip dislocations and ankle and foot deformitiesNeurosurgery such as the implantation of a baclofen pump can be to manage the pain and spasms produced by CP or dorsal rhizotomy, in which certain nerves in the spine are severed to reduce stiffness and improve mobility and posture

Long-Term Prognosis for Cerebral Palsy

Although cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that cannot be reversed, with the proper medical and surgical care, children with the disability can live full and happy lives.

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