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Severe Cerebral Palsy

While it may take years — sometimes as many as three to five years — to accurately diagnose mild cerebral palsy in a child, the symptoms of severe cerebral palsy are evident early in the infant's life. These symptoms may include:

  • Posture that is extremely stiff or extremely limp
  • Arching the back when held
  • Straightening the arms and legs when held
  • A weak or piercing cry
  • Seizures
  • Failure to meet developmental milestones
  • Problems sucking and swallowing
  • Low mineral bone density and tendency to have bone fractures
  • Smaller muscles in the affected arms and legs (these muscles don't get the exercise they need because of poor or nonexistent brain signals)
  • Abnormal sensations: even when touched lightly, patients with severe cerebral palsy may feel pain; brushing the hair may hurt
  • Abnormal sensations also affect the sense of touch and the ability to identify an object by touching it
  • Skin irritation on the chin and chest and around the mouth because of drooling; patients can't control the muscles of the face and throat
  • Tooth decay because the children may have trouble brushing their teeth; antiseizure medicine can also contribute to gum disease
  • Falls because of joint stiffness and lack of muscle control; seizures can also cause accidents

Adult cerebral palsy patients have more heart and lung disease. Cerebral palsy may cause eating difficulties and when the patient inhales food into the lungs, he or she risks having a lung infection or pneumonia.

Severe Cerebral Palsy and Life Expectancy

About 75 percent of children with the most severe forms of cerebral palsy will die before their second birthday. Of those who survive, there is a strong correlation between having basic skills, such as feeding oneself or mobility, and survivability. The use of gastronomy feeding tubes has increased the life expectancy of those with severe cerebral palsy. In those with severe forms of the disorder, prognosis is related to degree of disability.

Children with Severe Cerebral Palsy

In a California study of 12,709 children between 0.5 and 3.5 years old, "the most powerful prognostic factors for survival were simple functional items: mobility and feeding skills. Among children who were unable to lift their heads, median survival time was seven additional years for those who were tube fed (557 children) and 14 years for those fed entirely by others (997 children)."

The study was done by faculty in the Department of Statistics at the University of California in Riverside, and by faculty in the Department of Health Care and Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It was published in August 1997.

Was Your Baby Born with Severe Cerebral Palsy?

If your baby is diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy, you will need a lot of support. Our cerebral palsy lawyers may be able to help you obtain compensation to pay for the treatments and care your child will require. To find out if we can help you, please contact our cerebral palsy lawyers today and schedule a free consultation.