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Early Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis Important for Improved Outcomes: Study

The findings of a new study highlights the importance of early diagnosis of cerebral palsy, which can help mitigate infant motor and cognitive plasticity associated with the disorder, as well as prevent other complications and improve overall quality of life for children. 

Researchers from Australia, working with scientists around the world, published a study this month in the medical journal JAMA Pediatric, which indicates that cerebral palsy detection during infancy greatly improved outcomes for those with cerebral palsy. They noted that improvements in diagnoses techniques and treatment have made such early detection and intervention possible.

The study looked at six systematic reviews and two evidence-based clinical guidelines, ranging from 1956 to 2016. The researchers found that before five months of age, the best methods of diagnosing cerebral palsy included magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the Prechtl Qualitative Assessment of General Movements, and the Hammersmith Infant Neurological Examination. After five months of age, MRI’s the Hammersmith examination and the Developmental Assessment of Young Children were most accurate.

According to the findings, early detection of cerebral palsy in high-income countries leads to two out of three individuals with the disorder being able to walk, three in four able to talk, and half will have normal intelligence.

“Early diagnosis begins with a medical history and involves using neuroimaging, standardized neurological, and standardized motor assessments that indicate congruent abnormal findings indicative of cerebral palsy,” the researchers concluded. “Clinicians should understand the importance of prompt referral to diagnostic-specific early intervention to optimize infant motor and cognitive plasticity, prevent secondary complications, and enhance caregiver well-being.”

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that may be attributed to brain damage suffered before, during or shortly after birth. If the child’s brain is deprived of oxygen around the time of birth, it can result in irreversible damage that leaves the child with developmental problems, loss of motor functions and other life-long injuries and disabilities.

While there is no cure for the disorder, early diagnosis may increase the treatment options and the likelihood that the severity of cerebral palsy may be reduced, resulting in permanent improvements in quality of life for the child.

In many cases, cerebral palsy is caused by a birth injury or medical mistake that may have been prevented by the exercise of the proper standards of medical care. In those cases, families may be able to pursue financial compensation for the child through a cerebral palsy malpractice lawsuit.

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