What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination. Cerebral palsy affects the motor area of the brain’s outer layer (called the cerebral cortex), the part of the brain that directs muscle movement, also affecting the ability to maintain posture and balance.

Those with cerebral palsy exhibit a wide variety of symptoms, including:

  • Lack of muscle coordination when performing voluntary movements (ataxia);
  • Stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity);
  • Weakness in one or more arm or leg;
  • Walking on the toes, a crouched gait, or a “scissored” gait;
  • Variations in muscle tone, either too stiff or too floppy;
  • Excessive drooling or difficulties swallowing or speaking;
  • Shaking (tremor) or random involuntary movements;
  • Delays in reaching motor skill milestones, and difficulty with precise movements such as writing or buttoning a shirt.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the average prevalence of cerebral palsy is 3.3 children per 1,000 live births.

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What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal development of part of the brain or by damage to parts of the brain that control movement. This damage can occur before, during, or shortly after birth. A small number of children have acquired cerebral palsy, after birth. Some causes of acquired cerebral palsy include brain damage in the first few months or years of life, brain infections such as bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis, problems with blood flow to the brain, or head injury from a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or child abuse. In many cases, the cause of cerebral palsy is unknown. Possible causes include genetic abnormalities, congenital brain malformations, maternal infections or fevers, or fetal injury, for example.

The following types of brain damage may cause cerebral palsy:

  • Damage to the white matter of the brain (periventricular leukomalacia, or PVL).
  • Abnormal development of the brain (cerebral dysgenesis).
  • Bleeding in the brain (intracranial hemorrhage).
  • Severe lack of oxygen in the brain (often occurring during the birthing process).

What are the Forms of Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is classified according to the type of movement disorder involved – spastic (stiff muscles), athetoid (writhing movements), or ataxic (poor balance and coordination) – plus any additional symptoms, such weakness (paresis) or paralysis (plegia).

Common Forms of Cerebral Palsy are:

  • Spastic hemiplegia/hemiparesis typically affects the arm and hand on one side of the body, but it can also include the leg.
  • Spastic diplegia/diparesis involves muscle stiffness that is predominantly in the legs and less severely affects the arms and face, although the hands may be clumsy.
  • Spastic quadriplegia/quadriparesis is the most severe form of cerebral palsy and is often associated with moderate-to-severe intellectual disability.
  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy (also includes athetoid, choreoathetoid, and dystonic cerebral palsies) is characterized by slow and uncontrollable writhing or jerky movements of the hands, feet, arms, or legs.
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy affects balance and depth perception.
  • Mixed types of cerebral palsy refer to symptoms that don’t correspond to any single type of CP but are a mix of types.

Cerebral Palsy Treatment

Cerebral palsy can’t be cured, but treatment will often improve the condition.

Treatments for cerebral palsy include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech and language therapy
  • Oral medications
  • Orthopedic surgeries

Prognosis for Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is non-progressive, meaning the brain damage does not worsen. Intellectual level among those with cerebral palsy varies from genius to intellectually impaired, as it does in the general population. The ability to live independently varies widely, depending on the severity of each person's impairment. Life expectancy, depending on the severity of their condition and the quality of care with which they are provided, may vary, as well. However, many with cerebral palsy live full, engaged lives.

Mobility for Those with Cerebral Palsy

Arthrogryposis treatment includes occupational therapy, physical therapy, splinting, and surgery. The goals of these treatments are increasing joint mobility, muscle strength, and the development of adaptive use patterns that allow for walking and independence with activities of daily living. Since arthrogryposis includes many different types, the treatment varies between patients depending on the symptoms. Surgical techniques may also be used.

Mobility for Those with Cerebral Palsy

Many with more severe forms of cerebral palsy require the use of a power wheelchair. Quantum Rehab®, a global leader in advanced power chairs, specializes in adapted power chairs for those with cerebral palsy.

Quantum’s power chair technology for cerebral palsy addresses aspects like power seating for repositioning and pressure relief; customized seating surfaces adapted to unique posture; and special drive controls for those with limited coordination, allowing power chair operation with virtually any part of the body.

For more information on Quantum Rehab’s cerebral palsy related power chair technology, please click here.



About Quantum Rehab

Quantum Rehab® was born out of the desire to delight customers with the most advanced, consumer-inspired complex rehab power wheelchairs and related technologies possible.

At Quantum, consumer needs and wishes are the driving force. We’re dedicated to not just meeting medical and clinical needs, but also quality-of-life needs. From the most advanced power seating for pressure management to USB ports, Bluetooth and fender lights, no consumer need is overlooked.


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