Low Apgar Score at Birth Linked to Later Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy: Study

The results of a recent study suggest that a low Apgar score at birth could be an indicator of a cerebral palsy birth injury, which may not be diagnosed until later in childhood. 

The cerebral palsy study was conducted by researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and published last week in the British Medical Journal. Researchers identified a strong link between a low score on an Apgar test, which is a simple way to score a child’s vitality minutes after it is born, and a later diagnosis of cerebral palsy for that child.

The researchers used the Medical Birth Registry of Norway and the Norwegian Registry of Cerebral Palsy to look at the Apgar scores and cerebral palsy diagnoses in more than half a million children born between 1986 and 1995. They found that children who had a low Apgar score were 100 times more likely to be diagnosed later with cerebral palsy than children who scored high.

Cerebral palsy is caused by an injury to the infant’s brain that can occur before, during or shortly after birth. If the brain of a baby is deprived of oxygen, it can result in irreversible damage that leaves the child with developmental problems, loss of motor functions and other life-long injuries and disabilities associated with cerebral palsy.

Symptoms of cerebral palsy are commonly associated with seizures, sensory impairments and cognitive limitation, and can range from mild cerebral palsy to a severe disability.

Low Apgar scores were associated with all types of spastic cerebral palsy, but were most strongly linked to spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, which affects the muscles of both arms and both legs. The condition is also commonly associated with mental retardation, seizures and difficulty swallowing.

Researchers do point out that most children who have a low Apgar score at birth recover and do well. However, the Apgar score could be an important clue to diagnosing cerebral palsy early, and recommended that children with low scores be monitored for signs of brain damage.

In some cases, a medical mistake may be responsible for cerebral palsy in a child if a preventable error caused the child’s brain to be deprived of oxygen for an extended period of time. Medical malpractice lawsuits for cerebral palsy are often filed when the disability could have been prevented with the exercise of proper standards of medical care.

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