|CRDAMC Homepage | CRDAMC Library Phone #: (254) 288-8366 | CRDAMC Library Fax #: (254) 288-8368|
by Debra Wood, RN
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of chronic disorders that affect the ability to control movement. It appears in the first few years of life. Generally, the nerve damage does not worsen over time, but the muscle, joint, and skeletal effects can get worse without treatment.
CP occurs due to damage to areas of the brain that direct movement. This damage interferes with the brain's ability to control movement and posture. Other areas of the brain controlling thinking, speech, vision, or hearing may also be involved. CP may develop before, during, or after birth.
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that increase the risk of CP include:
Symptoms of CP vary widely. They may include difficulty with fine motor tasks like writing or using scissors, difficulty maintaining balance or walking, difficulty hearing or speaking, muscle tightness, and involuntary movements . The symptoms differ from person to person and may change over time.
CP first shows up in children aged 3 years or younger. Symptoms vary depending on what areas of the brain are affected. The problems can involve one side of the body (hemiplegia), the upper or lower body (diplegia), or both the upper and lower body on both sides (quadraplegia). Occasionally the face and neck are involved.
Disabilities can be mild to severe and vary from side to side and top to bottom. Although symptoms may change or progress slightly as the child grows older, the child's condition is unlikely to worsen significantly, especially with treatment.
Some people with CP suffer from other medical disorders as well, including:
Doctors diagnose CP by testing motor skills and reflexes, looking into medical history, and using a variety of specialized tests.
You may have your brain's electrical activity tested. This can be done with an Electroencephalogram (EEG).
You may have pictures taken of structures inside your head. This can be done with:
There is no treatment to cure CP. The brain damage cannot be corrected. Therapy aims to help the child reach his or her full potential. Children with CP grow to adulthood and may be able to work and live independently.
Drugs help control muscle spasms and seizures, and prevent bone loss.
Medications may help:
Different seizure medications can be used depending on the type of seizure
Certain operations may improve the ability to sit, stand, and walk. These may include tendon transfers or lengthening, joint loosening, bone straightening, and nerve surgery.
Physical Aids TOP
Braces and splints help reduce muscle contraction, keep limbs in correct alignment, and prevent deformities. Positioning devices enable better posture. Walkers, special scooters, and wheelchairs make it easier to move around.
Special Education TOP
Programs designed to meet the child's special needs may improve learning. Some children do well attending regular schools with special services. Vocational training can help prepare young adults for jobs.
Rehabilitation Services TOP
Speech, physical, and occupational therapies may improve the ability to speak, move, walk, and perform activities of daily living. Physical therapy helps strengthen muscles and improve fitness. Children can learn different ways to complete difficult tasks.
Family Services TOP
Professional support helps a patient and family cope with CP. Counselors help parents learn how to modify behaviors. Caring for a child with CP can be stressful. Some families find support groups helpful.
Other Treatment TOP
Therapeutic electrical stimulation might help increase muscle strength and range of motion.
Several of the causes of CP that have been identified through research are preventable or treatable:
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
United Cerebral Palsy
Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy
Ashwal S, Russman BS, Blasco PA, et al. Practice parameter: diagnostic assessment of the child with cerebral palsy: report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the Practice Committee of the Child Neurology Society. Neurology. 2004;62(6):851-863.
Cerebral palsy (CP). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114012/Cerebral-palsy-CP. Updated June 15, 2017. Accessed September 21, 2017.
Cerebral palsy (CP). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated March 13, 2017. Accessed September 21, 2017, 2015.
Cerebral palsy information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Cerebral-Palsy-Information-Page. Accessed September 21, 2017.
Hazneci B, Tan AK, Guncikan MN, Dincer K, Kalyon TA. Comparison of the efficacies of botulinum toxin A and Johnstone pressure splints against hip adductor spasticity among patients with cerebral palsy: a randomized trial. Mil Med. 2006;171(7):653-656.
Johnson SL, Blair E, Stanley FJ. Obstetric malpractice litigation and cerebral palsy in term infants. J Forensic Leg Med. 2011;18(3):97-100.
Nolan KW, Cole LL, Liptak GS. Use of botulinum toxin type A in children with cerebral palsy. Phys Ther. 2006;86(4):573-584.
Park ES, Park CI, Chang HC, Park CW, Lee DS. The effect of botulinum toxin type A injection into the gastrocnemius muscle on sit-to-stand transfer in children with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy. Clin Rehabil. 2006;20(8):668-674.
Steinbok P. Selection of treatment modalities in children with spastic cerebral palsy. Neurosurg Focus. 2006;21(2):e4.
10/30/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114012/Cerebral-palsy-CP: Mergler S, Evenhuis HM, Boot AM, et al. Epidemiology of low bone mineral density and fractures in children with severe cerebral palsy: a systematic review. Dev Med Child Neurol. 2009;51(10):773-778.
2/4/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114012/Cerebral-palsy-CP: Delgado MR, Hirtz D, Aisen M, et al. Practice parameter: pharmacologic treatment of spasticity in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy (an evidence-based review): report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the Practice Committee of the Child Neurology Society. Neurology. 2010;74:336-343.
8/11/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114012/Cerebral-palsy-CP: Azzopardi D, Strohm B, et al. Effects of hypothermia for perinatal asphyxia on childhood outcomes. N Engl J Med. 2014;371(2):140-149.
3/23/2017 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114012/Cerebral-palsy-CP: Villamor E, Tedroff K, et al. Association between maternal body mass index in early pregnancy and incidence of cerebral palsy. JAMA. 2017 Mar 7;317(9):925-936.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 11/8/2017
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.