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Cerebral Palsy

Stump, Elizabeth

doi: 10.1097/01.NNN.0000338205.96536.4c
Department: the Waiting Room: By the Numbers

Cerebral palsy (CP) refers to a group of neurological disorders affecting body movement, posture, and muscle coordination. It is caused by damage to the white matter of the brain, bleeding inside the brain, or a lack of oxygen in the brain (asphyxia).

Damage typically arises during fetal development, but it can also occur shortly after birth or during infancy due to brain infections or head injury.

CP is chronic but does not get worse over time. Although it can't be cured, treatment (the earlier the better) can help improve function. This includes physical, occupational, and speech therapy; drugs to control seizures and relax muscle spasms; surgery to correct anatomical abnormalities or release tight muscles; and braces and wheelchairs.


Portion of cerebral palsy cases associated with preterm birth. (37 weeks is considered full term.)


Estimated number of children and adults in the U.S. living with one or more CP symptoms. The most common symptoms are tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes, poor muscle coordination, walking with one foot or leg dragging, walking on the toes, and a crouched gait.


Number of babies and infants diagnosed with CP each year. The majority of children are diagnosed before age two, but if the child has mild symptoms, a diagnosis may not be made until age four or five.


Babies weighing less than this number of pounds at birth have a higher risk of having CP (and the risk increases as the birth weight falls).


Percentage of children with CP who live into their adult years, thanks to improvements in medical care, rehabilitation, and assistive technologies.


Estimated percentage of children with cerebral palsy who are unable to produce intelligible speech.


Elizabeth Stump

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