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Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a collective term for any motor disorder ( difficulties in sitting/walking/grip or movement of hands/difficulties in speech/swallowing ) as a result of injury to the brain either prenatal/ perinatal or postnatal ( generally upto 1 year of age ).

The diagnosis can be made on history, examination and by obtaining an MRI brain to demonstrate the nature and extent of injury. Other tests such as a VEP (to check vision) or BERA (to check hearing) may be required.

There are various causes for cerebral palsy:

  • Preterm birth
  • Birth asphyxia
  • Neonatal hypoglycaemia
  • Neonatal stroke
  • Neonatal sepsis
  • Meningitis in the first year of life

The type of cerebral palsy can be described as quadriplegic (4 limb), diplegic (both lower limbs), hemiplegic (upper limb and lower limb on one side of the body), double hemiplegia.

A different way of describing cerebral palsy is spastic, dystonic, ataxic- this describes the type of motor difficulty.

In general there is no direct cure for the brain injury that leads to cerebral palsy.

The condition is best managed by a team of Paediatrician, Paediatric Neurologist, Orthopaedic surgeon, Ophthalmologist, Physiotherapist and Occupational Therapist.

Mediciness to reduce spasticity, to stop seizures, to reduce dystonia and to promote brain growth may be prescribed.

Neurosurgery (surgery on the brain) is less likely to be required, but surgery on the legs to improve walking may be advised.

Advanced treatments such as an intrathecal baclofen pump or selective dorsal rhizotomy are available.

Stem cell transplant has not been proven yet as a treatment for cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy in most cases is not genetic in origin and instead is more likely to be due to brain injury as a result of an acquired cause. So the likelihood of it happening in further children in the same family is also less likely. In a lot of cases it is avoidable if good care is taken during pregnancy, at the time of birth and in the first year of life.

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