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Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy – Treatment Options and Life Expectancy

 Cerebral palsy is defined as a disorder of movement and posture caused by congenital conditions. Cerebral palsy symptoms first appear during infancy and these non-progressive and non-contagious motor conditions may result in physical disability and dysfunction.

Common Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

Some visible symptoms of movement impairment are:

  • Exaggerated reflexes
  • Floppiness and slow movements (athetosis)
  • Rigidity of limbs and trunk (rigidity and spasticity)
  • Abnormal posture
  • Involuntary movements (tremors)
  • Unsteadiness of walking
  • Eye muscle imbalance
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Reduced joint motion
  • Epilepsy

Other neurological problems and brain abnormalities may facilitate the diagnosis of cerebral palsy:

  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Abnormal pain perception
  • Oral disease
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Intellectual disability
  • Seizures

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Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis

It is very important to observe the child’s development closely and to take the child to the doctor for regular visits, in order to monitor key areas of motor development, for instance:

  • Growth
  • Strength
  • Tone
  • Coordination
  • Motor skills
  • Posture
  • Sensory abilities

Some other factors help doctors to diagnose cerebral palsy and many of its conditions. It is important that the parent or adult responsible for the guidance of the child acknowledges:

  • The concern they have about the growth or development of the child.
  • How well the child eats.
  • How the child responds to touch and sensorial stimuli.
  • If the child favors one side of the body.
  • If the child is reaching milestones of motor development (rolling over, sitting up, walking and speaking, among many others).

After the evaluation of signs and symptoms, the review of the child’s medical history and physical examination, if the pediatrician suspects cerebral palsy in the child, he may consider referring the child to a pediatric neurologist.

Some common tests to diagnose:

  • EEG or Electroencephalogram
  • Lab tests
  • Brain scans and imaging technologies include:
  • MRI or Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Cranial ultrasound
  • CT scan or computerized tomography

Some additional tests involve sensorial impairment and intellectual and movement disability assessment tests. 

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Cerebral Palsy Treatment Options

Treatment for children and adults suffering from cerebral palsy is a long-term procedure. Treatment includes one or several lines of action, depending on the affected areas in the brain and the body, mainly:

  • Medical care team – which may include pediatricians, pediatric neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, speech-language pathologists, developmental therapists, mental health specialist, social workers and special education teachers.
  • Medication – may lessen the symptoms and improve functional abilities, treat pain and aid cerebral palsy treatment options.
  • Therapy – help enhance abilities. These include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and recreational therapy.
  • Surgery – might be needed in some cases, for example to correct bone abnormality. Orthopedic surgery and severing nerves are some cerebral palsy treatment options.

Cerebral Palsy Life Expectancy

For most patients, cerebral palsy life expectancy is as much as that of a healthy individual. Children with common forms of the disease have a 99% chance of survival rate. But the number lowers considerably if the patient suffers from a severe form of cerebral palsy.

Most individuals can live long and quite normal lives as long as they keep up with the regular visits to health care professionals, along with therapy, medication and surgical intervention if necessary. On the other hand, cerebral palsy life expectancy in severe conditions drops to a large extent.