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Cerebral palsy
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Cerebral palsy

Diseases & Conditions A-Z

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CHILDREN'S HEALTH

Infants

BRAIN & NERVOUS SYSTEM

Movement Disorders

 

Causes

Cerebral palsy results from an abnormality in or injury to areas of the brain that control motor function. Although cerebral palsy affects movement, the underlying problem originates in the brain, not in the muscles themselves.

In some children with cerebral palsy, doctors can pinpoint a specific reason for the neurologic problem. For example, cerebral palsy can develop following meningitis — an infection and inflammation of the membranes and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. However, for many children with cerebral palsy, doctors can't find a specific cause.

For many years doctors and researchers believed that cerebral palsy was closely linked with events occurring during labor and birth. Now they believe this is less frequently the reason. The many possible causes of cerebral palsy now identified include:

  • Abnormal brain development

  • Insufficient circulation to areas of the brain either before or after birth

  • Infection in or beside the brain

  • Bleeding in the brain

  • Biochemical or genetic factors

  • Other unknown causes

Researchers believe that some cases of cerebral palsy might occur as an indirect result of an infection before birth. It appears that the brain of a fetus might be affected by the mother's immune response as it fights an infection, not directly by the infection itself.

Risk factors

Cerebral palsy is more prevalent among low-birth-weight babies, with the highest risk in the tiniest newborns.

These factors also increase the risk of cerebral palsy:

  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy

  • Breech presentation — when a fetus doesn't turn to the usual head-first position for birth

  • Maternal infection

  • Meconium staining of amniotic fluid — caused by stool passed by the fetus in utero

 

Cerebral palsy > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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Last Modified : 03/14/08 07:18 PM