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Cerebral Palsy

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a broad term that describes a group of neurological (brain) disorders. It is a life-long condition that affects the communication between the brain and the muscles, causing a permanent state of uncoordinated movement and posturing. CP may be the result of an episode that causes a lack of oxygen to the brain.

What causes cerebral palsy?

Many cases of CP have unknown causes. The disorder occurs when there is abnormal development or damage to areas in the brain that control motor function. It occurs in approximately two out of every 1,000 live births. Risk factors for CP include the following:

What are the symptoms of cerebral palsy?

The following are the most common symptoms of CP. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. The child may have muscle weakness, poor motor control, or have shaking, also called spasticity, of the arms or legs. Muscle stiffness in the form of stiff legs or clenched fists may also be seen. Cerebral palsy is classified according to the kind of motor function the child may have, including the following:

Children with CP may have additional problems, including the following:

Babies with CP are often slow to reach developmental milestones, such as learning to roll over, sit, crawl, or walk. They may also have certain reflexes present that normally disappear in early infancy. The symptoms of CP may resemble other conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

How is cerebral palsy diagnosed?

The diagnosis of CP is made with a 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 6 to12 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:

Treatment of cerebral palsy:

Specific treatment for cerebral palsy will be determined by your child's physician based on:

Since CP is a life-long condition that is not correctable, management includes focusing on preventing or minimizing deformities and maximizing the child's capability at home and in the community. A child is best treated with an interdisciplinary team that may include the following healthcare providers:

Management of CP includes non-surgical and surgical options. Non-surgical interventions may include:

Surgical interventions may be used to manage the following conditions:

Long-term outlook for the child with cerebral palsy:

Since CP is a life-long condition that is not correctable, management includes focusing on preventing or minimizing deformities and maximizing the child's capabilities at home and in the community. Positive reinforcement will encourage the child to strengthen his/her self-esteem and promote as much independence as possible.

The full extent of the problems is usually not completely understood immediately after birth, but may be revealed as the child grows and develops.

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