Cerebral Palsy (CP)
How and when is Cerebral Palsy (CP) diagnosed?
CP is the most common movement disorder in childhood. Despite this, it often goes undiagnosed – especially when symptoms are mild. Diagnostic workup is typically done within the first year of life and may be prompted by an infant with delays in motor development, muscle weakness or tightness, or a history of a complicated pregnancy or birth. Diagnosis is made after a thorough neurological examination and brain imaging such as a cranial ultrasound or brain MRI.
Does CP get worse over time?
CP is the result of injury or stroke to a young brain. This means that the brain injury does not get worse over time. However, the movement-related issues can cause problems that worsen – especially during times of rapid growth. This can lead to functional problems, bone and joint deformities, and pain.
What are some of the treatments for CP?
So far there is no cure for CP, however, there are many treatments to help a child with CP thrive. Children with CP share common signs and symptoms related to muscle weakness, muscle over-activity and tightness. Treatment may include occupational, physical and speech therapies, bracing, specialized equipment, medications, muscle injections, intrathecal baclofen pumps and orthopedic surgeries.
What is the Physiatrist’s role in treatment?
The PM&R physician’s (we are called “physiatrists”) role is to screen for medical issues associated with CP as well as to screen and prescribe treatments targeting functional and musculoskeletal issues. Specifically, physiatrists prescribe therapies, bracing, specialized equipment, oral medications and perform “Botox* injections,” manage baclofen pumps and collaborate closely with Pediatricians, Orthopedists, Neurosurgeons, Geneticists and other subspecialists to navigate the right treatment plan for each child.
What else to know?
If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, know that they are a special gift, a true survivor and have great value to society and anyone they encounter. There are many amazing stories and great people living with “CP.” You and your family can help write the next chapter in this legacy. Ask how to connect with your community, state, national or even international CP organizations.
Start by visiting the Cerebral Palsy Foundation: http://yourcpf.org
Consider other specific resources or needs your child may have and review the below list. If help is wanted to navigate these resources and to understand more about social services for your child, please request a social worker consulation.
Adaptive Sports & Recreation: Ask these organizations if they are the right fit for you or your child.