Diagnosing cerebral palsy can be accomplished by testing an infant's motor skills and looking carefully at the infant's medical history. In addition to checking for slow development (developmental delay), abnormal muscle tone, and unusual posture (described above) a physician also tests the infant's reflexes and looks for early development of hand preference.
Reflexes are movements that the body makes automatically in response to a specific cue. For example, if a newborn baby is held on its back and tilted so the legs are above its head, the baby will automatically extend its arms in a gesture, called the Moro reflex, that looks like an embrace. Babies normally lose this reflex after they reach 6 months, but those with cerebral palsy may retain it for abnormally long periods. This is just one of several reflexes that a physician can check.
Doctors can also look for hand preference -- a tendency to use either the right or left hand more often. When the doctor holds an object in front and to the side of the infant, an infant with hand preference will use the favored hand to reach for the object, even when it is held closer to the opposite hand. During the first 12 months of life, babies do not usually show hand preference. But infants with spastic hemiplegia, in particular, may develop a preference much earlier, since the hand on the unaffected side of their body is stronger and more useful.
The next step in diagnosing cerebral palsy is to rule out other disorders that can cause movement problems. Most important, doctors must determine that the child's condition is not getting worse. Although its symptoms may change over time, cerebral palsy by definition is not progressive. If a child is continuously losing motor skills, the problem more likely springs from elsewhere -- including genetic diseases, muscle diseases, disorders of metabolism, or tumors in the nervous system. The child's medical history, special diagnostic tests, and, in some cases, repeated check-ups can help confirm that other disorders are not at fault.
The doctor may also order specialized tests to learn more about the possible cause of cerebral palsy. One such test is computed tomography, or CT, a sophisticated imaging technique that uses X rays and a computer to create an anatomical picture of the brain's tissues and structures. A CT scan may reveal brain areas that are underdeveloped, abnormal cysts (sacs that are often filled with liquid) in the brain, or other physical problems. With the information from CT scans, doctors may be better equipped to judge the long-term outlook for an affected child. Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a relatively new brain imaging technique that is rapidly gaining widespread use for identifying brain disorders. This technique uses a magnetic field and radio waves, rather than X rays. MRI gives better pictures of structures or abnormal areas located near bone than CT.
A third test that can help diagnose and expose problems in brain tissues is ultrasonography. This technique bounces sound waves off the brain and uses the pattern of echoes to form a picture, or sonogram, of its structures. Ultrasonography can be used in infants before the bones of the skull harden and close. Although it is less precise than CT and MRI scanning, this technique can detect cysts and structures in the brain, is less expensive, and does not require long periods of immobility.
Finally, physicians may want to look for other conditions that are linked to cerebral palsy, including seizure disorders, mental impairment, and vision or hearing problems.When the doctor suspects a seizure disorder, an electroencephalogram, or EEG, may be ordered. An EEG uses special patches called electrodes placed on the scalp to record the natural electrical currents inside the brain. This recording can help the doctor see patterns in the brain's electrical activity that may suggest a disorder.
Early Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy
Early signs of cerebral palsy usually appear before 3 years of age, and parents are often the first to suspect that their infant is not developing motor skills normally. Infants with cerebral palsy are frequently slow to reach developmental milestones, such as learning to roll over, sit, crawl, smile, or walk. This is body. Parents who are concerned about their baby's development for any reason should contact their physician, who can help distinguish normal variation in development from a developmental disorder. In the early stages of cerebral palsy it may be difficult to distinguish the differences in the types of cerebral palsy. Those include Spastic Cerebral Palsy, Athetoid Cerebral Palsy and Ataxic Cerebral Palsy, and a mixed type of cerebral palsy.
In cases whether the signs of cerebral palsy may not be as pronounced, a parent and doctor may need to wait. In some cases, the signs of CP may take several more months than normal to be revealed or in some cases, with time the earlier suspected case of a child with cerebral palsy may be proved wrong and a cerebral palsy diagnosis incorrect. Cerebral palsy is often suspected when a child does not achieve normal growth milestones, such as rolling over, sitting, crawling, smiling, or walking.
However more severe symptoms of cerebral palsy may also appear at birth or within a few weeks. Some children with cerebral palsy have abnormal muscle tone. Decreased muscle tone is called hypotonia; the baby may seem flaccid and relaxed, even floppy. Increased muscle tone is called hypertonia, and the baby may seem stiff or rigid. In some cases, the baby has an early period of hypotonia that progresses to hypertonia after the first 2 to 3 months of life. Affected children may also have unusual posture or favor one side of their check with your doctor. He or she can help you distinguish between normal developmental variation among children and a more significant developmental delay disorder.
Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit - Talk with Lawyer
If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy or you suspect that your child has cerebral palsy that may have been caused by a medical mistake, oxygen depreviation, fetal distress, birth asphyxia or a birthing injury or trauma, then call us for a Free & Confidential Consultation. Talk to a Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Lawyer at 1-800-883-9858 or click here for Free CP Case Review