Researchers caution that determining survivability in those with severe cerebral palsy is difficult. Among the reasons are:
- CP can be hard to diagnose very early in a newborn's life
- Follow-up information may be difficult to obtain. Pediatricians, who usually compile the data, often lack actuarial skills or don't have a large enough database. In addition, they need to follow patients through adulthood
- Data that are missing need to be considered in the results
- Some researchers say that the only way to get true life expectancy estimates is to involve pediatricians, epidemiologists and statisticians in a collaborative study
It is important to follow up an early cerebral palsy diagnosis with continued examinations and tests. Numerous other disorders can have early symptoms like those of cerebral palsy and patients with these disorders must be excluded from life expectancy estimates of cerebral palsy.
In a study of approximately 1,600 children, disability due to cerebral palsy was divided among the following categories: cognition (perception, thought, and memory); mobility (ability to walk or use a wheelchair); manual ability (ability to feed and dress oneself); vision; and hearing.
In children with severe cerebral palsy, in this study, survival beyond two years was less than 25 percent.
Severe Cerebral Palsy Symptoms in Newborns
Unlike children whose mild cerebral palsy may not be diagnosed for a year or two, newborns with severe cerebral palsy have noticeable symptoms. These symptoms can include:
- Extreme postures such as being very floppy, or very stiff
- Straightening the arms and legs when held and arching the back
- A cry that is weak or piercing
Severe Cerebral Palsy in Children
As the child grows older, more symptoms may appear, including:
- Small, weaker muscles in the arms and legs
- Problems with tactile ability, such as feeling pain from just a light touch, or having trouble identifying objects when touching them
- Falls due to poor muscle control or seizures
- Frequent sickness or infections because of heart or lung problems that are a result of cerebral palsy
- Problems with the teeth and gums because of inability to brush
Patients with the most severe forms of cerebral palsy, including spastic quadriplegia, will be affected throughout their entire body. They will likely experience the following side effects:
- Cannot walk or control the movement of their legs
- Cannot use their arms and hands or control their movement
- Cannot control the muscles of the mouth or tongue
- Have trouble swallowing
- Have trouble speaking
- Often are mentally retarded
Severe Cerebral Palsy In Adults
Information on adults living with severe cerebral palsy is not nearly as plentiful as it is on children who have the disorder. It seems clear, though, that most people with the most severe form of cerebral palsy do not live to become even young adults.
In a british study of a large number of patients, mobility was the major predictor of survivability. Patients who could not move their wheelchair themselves, could not feed or dress themselves, and were severely mentally retarded, lived to between 17 and 20 years.
Even though the disorder is not progressive—that is, cerebral palsy itself does not worsen over time—the secondary effects of the disease can become more pronounced. Adults with moderate to severe cerebral palsy encounter more problems as they age, such as:
- Premature aging
- Swallowing problems
- Dental disease
- Loss of strength
- Problems with the lungs and heart
For more information about severe cerebral palsy, contact a cerebral palsy attorney at our offices today.