Cerebral Palsy

  • Medical Author: Norberto Alvarez, MD
  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

What is the long-term outlook for patients with cerebral palsy?

The answer is complex. Since cerebral palsy is actually a set of symptoms associated with a variety of causes, potential treatments will have to be diverse. Many scientists are now focusing on recent discoveries that suggest we will be able to replace lost or damaged brain cells. While such therapies are not yet available, it is likely that real clinical trials will begin in the next 5 to 10 years.

The more we know about the causes of cerebral palsy, the more we can do to prevent it. For example the use of folic acid in sexually active women may prevent central nervous system malformations that might lead to cerebral palsy. Avoiding the use of certain drugs during the pregnancy whether legal, such as prescribed medications, alcohol or tobacco, or illegal such as cocaine and crack, will also decrease the changes of cerebral palsy in a child.

It cannot be overemphasized that the most important person in the lives of children with cerebral palsy is their caregiver. The caregiver, whether a parent or other person, must be able to recognize a child's needs and provide for him or her in a loving, positive environment. Because of the difficulty that many children with cerebral palsy have in expressing their needs, they are at great risk for unintentional and intentional neglect as well as overt child abuse. Often, the care of children with cerebral palsy can be quite taxing emotionally and financially on the family. The appropriate care for children with cerebral palsy, therefore, must take into account mental health and financial support for families and caregivers. Many state-run programs provide out-of-home schooling as well as respite care for the caregivers, but these services often fall short of what is truly needed. Health care professionals can very simply improve the lives of their patients by taking some extra time to listen to the concerns and hopes of the caregivers and provide thoughtful answers to their questions.

We must recognize that many, and possibly most, children with cerebral palsy can lead full, meaningful, and happy lives. The team of parents, caregivers, and health practitioners has the responsibility to help the child with cerebral palsy achieve this goal.

Medically reviewed by Jon Glass, MD; American board of Psychiatry and Neurology


"Clinical features and classification of cerebral palsy"

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/17/2015

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