Worlds of David Darling
Encyclopedia of Science
   
Home > Encyclopedia of Science

cerebral palsy




A diverse group of conditions caused by damage to the brain during or soon after birth, and resulting in a variable degree of nonprogressive physical and mental handicap. Cerebral palsy feature muscular spasm and weakness, lack of coordination and impaired movement or paralysis, and deformities of the limbs; intelligence is not necessarily affected. The condition may result from any one of a number of causes, such as faulty development, anoxia (oxygen deprivation), birth injury, prematurity, cerebral hemorrhage, Rhesus incompatibility, or infection.

While abnormalities of muscle control are the most obvious, loss of sensation and some degree of deafness are common accompaniments. Speech and intellectual development can also be impaired but may be entirely normal. Paralysis of both legs with mild arm weakness (diplegia) are common forms. A number of cases have abnormal movements (athetosis) or ataxia.

Physiotherapy and training allow a child with cerebral palsy to overcome many deficits; deformity must be avoided by ensuring full range movements at all joints, but surgical correction may be necessary. Sometimes transposition of tendons improves the balance of strength around important joints. It is crucial that the child is not deprived of normal sensory and emotional experiences.


Related category

   • HEALTH AND DISEASE