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Cerebral Palsy

Condition: Cerebral palsy (CP) is the result of brain damage in a baby that leads to disability. 

Background: CP occurs in about 2 to 3.6 out of every 1,000 live births, especially in babies who are born too early. It can be caused by an infection or other problem that occurred during pregnancy, but in many cases, the cause is not known.

Risk Factors: More boys than girls and more African-American than white babies have CP.     

History and Symptoms: Children with CP may have muscle spasms, weakness, or abnormal movements. They may seem either “floppy” or very stiff. CP does not get worse over time but can lead to problems with thinking, speech, swallowing and mobility. Children with CP may also have seizures, orthopedic problems, pain, and difficulties with vision and hearing.     

Physical Exam: The rehab physician/PM&R physician will check muscle tone, reflexes and posture, and how the baby or child moves around. 

Diagnostic Process: Depending on the child’s age, ultrasound, CT, or MRI will help diagnose CP. Genetic testing, other blood tests, and tests of hearing and vision will also be done to see if a reason for the baby’s problems can be found.     

Rehab Management: Babies and children with CP will need help moving, eating, and communicating. PM&R physicians, orthopedists, neurologists, therapists, social workers, nurses, parents, and teachers will need to work together to help with these problems. Medicine may help with spasticity. As the child grows up, he may need to use a walker, wheelchair or other equipment. Adaptions to school and social activities are also important to help the child with CP live a full life.        

Other Resources for Patients and Families: There are laws that require early intervention and other services for children with CP. A social worker or your local school system can help you get these services. 

For Patients and Families:

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