If you have a child with Cerebral Palsy (or know somebody with C.P.) then you are probably wondering what are the causes of Cerebral Palsy.
The main cause of cerebral palsy today is brain damage due to prematurity. Infants born in the 24-34 week gestation period have a high incidence of intraventricular haemorrhage (IVH) and damage to the periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). The risk of developing neurological complications increases according to how premature the birth may be. Damage to the posterior white material around the brain cavities usually results in more pyramidal signals in the hand than in the leg, as well as damage to the visual pathways.
It is commonly thought that lack of blood supply to the brain around birth is a major cause of cerebral palsy in children, but in fact, it is only 9% of the cases. The hypoxic-ischemic damage is characteristic of the newborn due to the need for postnatal resuscitation and as a result of lack of blood supply to the brain, the grey matter is damaged. The grey matter in the basal grainy area is the most vulnerable in the infant and therefore the clinical picture of ischemic-hypoxic injury will usually include a widespread hyper-pyramidal disorder.
Cerebral infarction, due to blockage in brain blood flow, can occur before or after birth. Usually, the lesion will be in one hemisphere and therefore the clinical picture will be a motor injury on the contralateral side whereby the hands are usually more affected than the legs.
Other factors that affect the developing brain are brain infections in fetal or infant life (eg meningitis, CMV and fungal infections), trauma (severe head injury), lack of brain blood supply in childhood (drowning or suffocation).
There are also congenital states in the context of developmental brain dysfunction: a group of problems that include birth defects that damage the normal brain tissue (eg, migration defects).
It is important to note that the picture of “cerebral palsy” is on a huge spectrum, mild to severe, and no one is similar to the other, even if two children have the same experience and reason. Thus, a birth at 26 weeks can present a developmental and motor image that reflects “severe cerebral palsy with severe motor and cognitive limitations” or alternatively a healthy child with normal development can also be born at 26 weeks.
It is also important to note that spasticity can be caused not only by brain damage to the infant or the young child but also due to severe damage to the spinal cord (accidents, severe inflammatory disease, etc.). However, damage to the spinal cord, even if it causes spasticity, will not be defined as cerebral palsy because there is no initial brain injury.
However, the spasticity itself, whether from a source of brain damage or from a source of damage to the spinal cord – may respond well to the entire range of treatments that are given to help with Cerebral Palsy.
Hydrotherapy is especially helpful for individuals experiencing CP.
If you have any questions or advice about Cerebral Palsy we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.