Aug 13, 2008
So your child, grandchild, niece or nephew has been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Now what?
Well, let’s take first things first. The clinical definition of Cerebral Palsy is “a non specific term used to describe persistent qualitative motor disorder caused by non-progressive damage to the brain” (Saunders Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medical Nursing and Allied Health). Breaking that apart: Cerebral is anything that pertains to the cerebrum (main portion of the brain) and Palsy is paralysis. In simplistic terms: Brain Paralysis or brain damage. The AMA determines Cerebral Palsy to be occurring before age 5.
Cerebral Palsy is neither contagious nor progressive. When someone who has Cerebral Palsy dies, it is not the CP itself that has caused the death. Rather, it is the result brain damage that has occurred in another area of the brain. There are several disorders associated with Cerebral Palsy, as the brain damage is typically not restricted to the motor centers of the brain.
There are several classifications of CP. One does not simply have CP. This usually begins with how the muscles are affected. The Spastic type is when there are exaggerated stretch reflexes, increased deep tendon reflexes and muscle spasm. Secondly, is the Athetiod type wherein there is purposeless, uncontrollable movements and muscle tension. Finally there is Atactic which leaves the child with poor balance, poor coordination and gait. You may hear these simply described as either being tight (spastic) or floppy (Atactic). Athetiod may also be characterized as writhing movements.
Your child may have one or more types. Usually this presents as a Spastic-Athetiod combination. These types may also change over the years. Most frequently this is either from a singular type to a combination, either Spastic or Athetiod to a Spastic Athetiod combination or Atatic to an Atactic-Athetiod. It is also possible that a Spastic child may become predominately Athetiod, or vice versa. A child going from Spastic to Atactic will almost never occur.
With these classifications then comes the location. This can be diplegia, affecting like extremities (both arms or both legs): hemiplegia, affecting one side (the opposite side of brain injury): triplegia, affecting three extremities or quadriplegia (tetraplegia) affecting all four extremities.
Additionally, to further confuse the issue, CP is given a severity level: mild, moderate or severe.
The end result gives you something like this:
Severe Spastic-Athetiod Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy
Severe Quadriplegic (Quadriplegia) Cerebral Palsy of the Spastic-Athetiod type.
The different types are treated in different manors and certain types are apt to be more severe in general.