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Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a disorder of movement and posture caused by injury to the developing brain before or around the early childhood period. While the injury is non-progressive, the symptoms may change with time. Children with CP often have impairments associated with the condition such as feeding and digestion problems, epilepsy, learning problems, socialization problems, special sensory deficits and orthopaedic changes.

What are the types of cerebral palsy?

There are different types of CP. Specialists look at several things including the limbs that are affected and which areas of the brain might be damaged or affected.

Experts classify CP in several different ways. They may look at how severe the CP is and whether it is mild, moderate or severe. They may also look at which limbs are affected, how many of the limbs are affected and whether one side of the body is affected. Some experts also look at motor function, which is how your child moves. Motor function classification might include whether the child has increased muscle tone or decreased muscle tone. They may also classify the CP based on the Gross Motor Function Classification System or GMFCS. The GMFCS is a universal classification system that looks at five different levels of impairment. It looks at head control, walking, running, jumping and how the child navigates on uneven surfaces. GMFCS gives parents, teachers and experts an idea of how self sufficient the child can be in all environments.

What causes cerebral palsy?

There are a number of conditions that cause cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is usually caused by a brain injury or a brain malformation that happens while the child’s brain is developing before, during or after birth. Premature babies can be at risk for CP. Other causes may include genetics, infection, possible trauma to the brain or abnormalities in the brain. Figuring out the cause may be important to help plan for the child’s future and optimize the best treatment possible.

How is cerebral palsy diagnosed?

It can often take time to diagnose cerebral palsy. Specialists may look at development milestones, growth chart standards, how the child’s reflexes react and whether the child’s movement and posture may be abnormal. Often specialists in the fields of developmental behavioral pediatrics, orthopedics and neurology will confirm a diagnosis.

What are the concerns for children with cerebral palsy?

The most common health issues associated with cerebral palsy include stomach and digestion problems, difficulty swallowing, incontinence, feeding problems, issues with speech, hearing, vision and even epilepsy. They may also have complications with their arms, legs and other bone and joint issues.

How can cerebral palsy be treated?

Surgery may be needed for children with advanced cerebral palsy. Medications do not cure CP. Instead, they target spasticity and movement control. They include medications given by mouth, injection and infused into the spinal column. Therapy in the form of physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT), speech and language therapy (SLP) and special education can assist in the rehabilitation of the individual. The Honolulu Shriners Hospital has a team of these specialists under one roof who will work together to help your child.

How we can help

At Shriners Hospitals for Children — Honolulu, it is our goal for children with CP to reach their potential and contribute to society.

For those interested in learning more, we would be happy to discuss ways that our team can specifically help your child reach his/her potential. Please feel free to contact us.

Shriners Hospitals for Children — Honolulu
1310 Punahou Street
Honolulu, HI 96826


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