Cerebral Palsy Risk Factors Evaluated in New Study

Birth defects and poor fetal growth are leading indicators that a newborn may suffer cerebral palsy, according to the findings of new research.  

In a study published on-line earlier this week by the medical journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NINDS) examined the risk factors for cerebral palsy, a chronic motor disability in children that is commonly associated with seizures, sensory impairments and cognitive limitations.

Researchers evaluated four cerebral palsy risk factors, including birth injuries that may cause a baby’s brain to be deprived of oxygen during delivery, inflammation or signs of infection, lower birth weight and birth defects.

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According to the findings, birth defects and poor fetal growth were the most accurate indicators of cerebral palsy, leading the researchers to recommend further study focused specifically on those risk factors.

The study examined data on 494 children born with cerebral palsy and a control group of 508 infants. They looked at data on 100 neonatal deaths and 73 intrapartum stillbirths as well. The researchers looked at the data for four factors to see to what degree the four risk factors might contribute to cerebral palsy.

Birth defects and poor fetal growth were the most common risk factors in children who were diagnosed with cerebral palsy, occurring in almost half of all children with the disorder. They were also the only factors that appeared to be involved in cases of quadriplegia or dyskinesia; movement disorders commonly associated with cerebral palsy.

Much of the previous focus on examining the potential causes of cerebral palsy has been focused on asphyxial birth events, which involve birth injuries that occur before, during or shortly after delivery where the brain is prevented from getting enough oxygen before. However, researchers say the new data suggests there should be more of a focus on birth defects and poor fetal growth in relation to cerebral palsy and early infant death.

Cerebral palsy involves serious bran damage that results in a life-long disability for the child, which can range from mild symptoms, such as clumsiness and awkwardness, to severe cases involving an inability to walk, talk and move independently.

In cases where cerebral palsy is linked to a birth injury during delivery, medical malpractice lawsuits are often pursued if the injury may have been caused by a failure of the provider to exercise the appropriate standards of medical care.

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