Cerebral Palsy is an umbrella term for conditions which affect peoples ability to move due to damage to the developing brain either prior, during or after birth. There are 111,000 people in the UK with cerebral palsy. It is estimated that 1 in 400 babies in the UK is born with cerebral Palsy.
Causes of CP
Cerebral paralysis caused by abnormal development or damage to the brain before, during or after birth. Most of the cause is prenatal and in other cases it can be caused by trauma or episodes where the brain becomes starved of oxygen.
Types of CP
Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type and can be found in 75% of cases. This causes muscles to become very tight.
Ataxic cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the cerebellum and found in 5% of cases. The cerebellum is responsible for movement and coordination. Damage to the cerebellum leads to difficulty with maintaining balance and difficulty performing fine motor skills. Ataxic cerebral palsy is thought to be the least debilitating and can be caused by development problems. In other cases, it can be caused by head trauma or infections such as meningitis.
Athetoid cerebral palsy accounts for 20% of cases. It is caused by damage to the part of the brain that controls co-ordination and body posture such as the basil ganglia and the cerebellum. This can be categorised into Choreoathetoid dyskinetic cerebral palsy and Dyskinetic cerebral palsy.
1. Choreoathetoid dyskinetic cerebral palsy- this is characterised by twisting involuntary jerking movements
2. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy- Characterised by abnormally fixed posture, muscle spasms and pain
Symptoms of CP
Symptoms of CP are either picked up in babies or children:
Low muscle tone, floppy when being picked up
Poor posture- Unable to support head when lying on stomach or sitting down
Poor muscle control- may prefer to use one side of their body
Not walking by 12-18 months
Not speaking simple sentences by 24 months
In more severe forms of CP diagnosis can happen at birth. In most cases, it takes 2 years to get a diagnosis however were symptoms are mild a diagnosis can occur in the 3-5 years of a child’s life.
The diagnosis is usually achieved through brain scans including ultrasound, MRI or CT scans:
Ultrasound uses sound waves to create an image of the baby’s brain.
CT scans are more powerful than ultra sounds as they take several x-rays to create a detailed image of the child’s head.
MRI scans produce a much more detailed image of the babies’ brain as it uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce an image
Risk Factors for CP
Low birth rate
Viruses or infections during birth
Traumatic head injury
Lack of oxygen