Cerebral Palsy
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Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a permanent condition caused by brain damage. However, children who are diagnosed early now have numerous treatment options that can counteract the effects of the disorder.

Diagnosis Timeframe

The detection of cerebral palsy at an early age is important as it allows parents and doctors to assess a child’s status, initiate therapy as soon as possible, and begin searching for and enrolling in assistance programs to defray the costs of treatment.

While new research has promised faster diagnosis of cerebral palsy, it can still take time to identify it under current practices. Some children with extreme cases may be diagnosed at birth. However, in most cases, a definite diagnosis does not come until as late as age 2.

The most common form of cerebral palsy, spastic CP, is usually diagnosed around the age of 18 months. In less severe cases, diagnosis can take up to 3-5 years, after the brain fully develops.

Testing and Signs for CP

There are no tests that can give a definitive diagnose of cerebral palsy, or rule it out. The path to identifying the condition often starts after parents notice something “off” about their child, such as a delay in developing certain key skills.

Of course, this may be a sign that the child is just a late bloomer. However, parents should monitor for certain factors that can suggest the presence of cerebral palsy. These include:

  • Abnormal movement, coordination or posture
  • Delay in reaching standard levels for height, weight or cognitive development
  • Trouble hearing or focusing on parents or caregivers
  • Delayed reaction to communication

Parent and Doctor Involvement

Parents concerned about any of these behaviors should notify a doctor who will then measure the child’s coordination, movement, posture and reflexes over a period of time. They may also order tests such as MRIs, CT scans or ultrasounds to examine brain function.

The process for cerebral palsy diagnosis also includes ruling out other conditions with similar symptoms. This allows doctors to focus only on the disorder afflicting the child, for more effective treatment.

Some conditions that have similar symptoms to CP include:

  • Muscle diseases
  • Genetic disorders
  • Degenerative nervous disorders
  • Nervous system tumors
  • Other developmental disorders that children may overcome

During the diagnosis process, children may see a number of specialists including pediatricians, neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, geneticists, developmental behaviorists, neuroradiologists, ophthalmologists, neonatologists and otologists.

Early CP Diagnosis Breakthroughs

This year, researchers from the Cerebral Palsy Alliance in Australia presented findings at the European Academy of Childhood Disability suggesting the had discovered a method to detect CP within weeks of birth, rather than waiting up to several years.

The project was headed by Professors Iona Novak and Cathy Morgan, who claim the new General Movements Assessment can detect cerebral palsy with about 95% accuracy within 3 months of birth.

If this method is verified and worked into daily practice, it could be a breakthrough in the diagnosis of cerebral palsy. At the least, it will provide important opportunities for earlier treatment and intervention.

The CP Help Center will continue to monitor for any updates.

For now, the prolonged timeframe of diagnosing cerebral palsy can be trying on parents. Aside from wanting answers about their child’s condition and prognosis, they want to give them the best treatment available to improve their outlook.

If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, it is also important to learn the cause of their condition. Often, this is only available through a thorough investigation by a lawyer. However, it costs nothing to learn your options or file a claim, and you may be eligible for substantial compensation.

For those with questions about their legal rights, the CP Help Center works only with lawyers that specialize in cerebral palsy lawsuits.

Contact us today for more information on the causes, treatment options and research related to cerebral palsy, or to speak with a lawyer. We are available 24 hours a day to help.