What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination. Cerebral palsy affects the motor area of the brain’s outer layer (called the cerebral cortex), the part of the brain that directs muscle movement, also affecting the ability to maintain posture and balance.
Those with cerebral palsy exhibit a wide variety of symptoms, including:
- Lack of muscle coordination when performing voluntary movements (ataxia);
- Stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity);
- Weakness in one or more arm or leg;
- Walking on the toes, a crouched gait, or a “scissored” gait;
- Variations in muscle tone, either too stiff or too floppy;
- Excessive drooling or difficulties swallowing or speaking;
- Shaking (tremor) or random involuntary movements;
- Delays in reaching motor skill milestones, and difficulty with precise movements such as writing or buttoning a shirt.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the average prevalence of cerebral palsy is 3.3 children per 1,000 live births.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal development of part of the brain or by damage to parts of the brain that control movement. This damage can occur before, during, or shortly after birth. A small number of children have acquired cerebral palsy, after birth. Some causes of acquired cerebral palsy include brain damage in the first few months or years of life, brain infections such as bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis, problems with blood flow to the brain, or head injury from a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or child abuse. In many cases, the cause of cerebral palsy is unknown. Possible causes include genetic abnormalities, congenital brain malformations, maternal infections or fevers, or fetal injury, for example.
The following types of brain damage may cause cerebral palsy:
- Damage to the white matter of the brain (periventricular leukomalacia, or PVL).
- Abnormal development of the brain (cerebral dysgenesis).
- Bleeding in the brain (intracranial hemorrhage).
- Severe lack of oxygen in the brain (often occurring during the birthing process).
What are the Forms of Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is classified according to the type of movement disorder involved – spastic (stiff muscles), athetoid (writhing movements), or ataxic (poor balance and coordination) – plus any additional symptoms, such weakness (paresis) or paralysis (plegia).
Common Forms of Cerebral Palsy are:
- Spastic hemiplegia/hemiparesis typically affects the arm and hand on one side of the body, but it can also include the leg.
- Spastic diplegia/diparesis involves muscle stiffness that is predominantly in the legs and less severely affects the arms and face, although the hands may be clumsy.
- Spastic quadriplegia/quadriparesis is the most severe form of cerebral palsy and is often associated with moderate-to-severe intellectual disability.
- Dyskinetic cerebral palsy (also includes athetoid, choreoathetoid, and dystonic cerebral palsies) is characterized by slow and uncontrollable writhing or jerky movements of the hands, feet, arms, or legs.
- Ataxic cerebral palsy affects balance and depth perception.
- Mixed types of cerebral palsy refer to symptoms that don’t correspond to any single type of CP but are a mix of types.
Cerebral Palsy Treatment
Cerebral palsy can’t be cured, but treatment will often improve the condition.
Treatments for cerebral palsy include:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech and language therapy
- Oral medications
- Orthopedic surgeries
Prognosis for Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is non-progressive, meaning the brain damage does not worsen. Intellectual level among those with cerebral palsy varies from genius to intellectually impaired, as it does in the general population. The ability to live independently varies widely, depending on the severity of each person's impairment. Life expectancy, depending on the severity of their condition and the quality of care with which they are provided, may vary, as well. However, many with cerebral palsy live full, engaged lives.
Mobility for Those with Cerebral Palsy
Arthrogryposis treatment includes occupational therapy, physical therapy, splinting, and surgery. The goals of these treatments are increasing joint mobility, muscle strength, and the development of adaptive use patterns that allow for walking and independence with activities of daily living. Since arthrogryposis includes many different types, the treatment varies between patients depending on the symptoms. Surgical techniques may also be used.
Mobility for Those with Cerebral Palsy
Many with more severe forms of cerebral palsy require the use of a power wheelchair. Quantum Rehab®, a global leader in advanced power chairs, specializes in adapted power chairs for those with cerebral palsy.
Quantum’s power chair technology for cerebral palsy addresses aspects like power seating for re-positioning and pressure relief; customized seating surfaces adapted to unique posture; and special drive controls for those with limited coordination, allowing power chair operation with virtually any part of the body.
Mobility and Assistive Technology Needs
Depending on the severity of the condition, some clients may not require assistive technology and may only have an affected gait. Others may only require the use of a walker or braces to accomplish independent mobility.
If a power mobility device is required, it is suggested the individual be evaluated early in the development process to promote increased independence and social interaction, along with providing the client with the opportunity to fully explore his/her environment.
The individual should be fitted with a power base that can meet various seating, positioning and electronics needs. An individual may require a power positioning system to help with pressure relief or independent weight shifting. Power seating options available include power tilt, power recline, and power tilt and recline.
A customized seating system is an important part of helping a client compensate for asymmetries, managing tone, providing proper stability, support and pressure management. There are also many custom accessories that can be adapted to meet the individual’s needs. Optional LED fender lights on the Q6 Edge® 2.0 help clients see and be seen.
Available with an array of compatible seating and positioning options, the Edge 3 also offers optional iLevel® Power Adjustable Seat Height, with speeds at 4.5 mph and 12” elevation, to increase client independence and enhance social interaction.
Often, an individual changes over time due to growth, weight gain or loss, therapeutic and/or medical intervention and the results of aging with a disability. To adapt to these changes, the seating system needs to be modular so the needs of the individual can continue to be met.
Some clients with cerebral palsy who have more advanced mobility needs may benefit from a power base that has the ability to accept full seating and positioning options.
The Q6 Edge® 2.0 and Edge 3 fits these criteria by possessing a proven track record of quality, reliability and customer satisfaction. All chairs in the series have the capability to accept expandable electronics.