Cerebral palsy is the term used to describe various movement disorders caused by damage to the brain during pregnancy, birth or in infancy. Sufferers may also have cognitive impairment, delayed mental development and pain that have serious negative consequences for their quality of life and independence. Learn more about the condition, its diagnosis and the different treatment options available.
For cerebral palsy that develops after birth or during delivery, parents generally have to wait for several months before a diagnosis can be made. The average age of diagnosis is between three and 18 months, when the parents notice signs of delayed development.
A diagnosis of cerebral palsy is based on a series of clinical tests:
- one limb favored strongly over the other: for example, a baby always grabbing objects with the same hand can be a sign of cerebral palsy;
- persistence of primitive reflexes (reflexes that babies have at birth, such as the Moro reflex) is another possible sign;
- an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or ultrasound (a test to give images of the soft tissue, bones and blood vessels) can be carried out to identify lesions or abnormalities in the brain;
- intelligence, vision and hearing tests are used to complete the diagnosis and pinpoint other conditions associated with the disorder.
2 to 2.5
cases per 1,000 live births in industrialized countries
Motor, sensory and intellectual impairment
3 to 18 months
the average age of diagnosis
1 Rosenbaum P, Paneth N, Leviton A, Goldstein M, Bax M, Damiano D, Dan B, Jacobsson B. The Definition and Classification of Cerebral Palsy. Dev Med Child Neurol 2007; 49 : 1-44, doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2007.00001.x
2 Stanley F, Blair E, Alberman E. Cerebal Palsies: Epidemiology and Causal Pathways. MacKeith Press; 2010.