Cerebral palsy is a condition that results from brain development that is abnormal or disrupted, either prior to birth or in early infancy. The abnormality can lead to neurological, motor and cognitive disabilities. A number of factors occurring during birth can lead to cerebral palsy, including prematurity, breech presentation, traumatic brain injury, seizures or lack of oxygen.
Cerebral palsy can range in severity. Some patients experience severe physical disability requiring assistive devices for mobility. Others demonstrate almost no observable symptoms at all. In either case, however, complications can arise from cerebral palsy, some of which may not manifest until adulthood while others may become evident during childhood. Possible complications of cerebral palsy include the following.
Spasticity and muscle contracture
Cerebral palsy can cause motor muscles to become spastic, i.e., extremely tight. This tightening can cause muscle shortening, the medical term for which is contracture. Muscle contracture can result in deformity of joints and inhibition of bone growth.
People with cerebral palsy, particularly infants and toddlers, may have difficulties with feeding or swallowing, and malnutrition can result. To ensure that the patient receives the necessary nourishment, a doctor will sometimes place a feeding tube.
The strain that cerebral palsy puts on the body can sometimes lead to premature aging. This usually starts to affect patients in their 40s.
Osteopenia is a lack of bone density that can put a patient at greater risk for fractures. It can result from inadequate nutrition, side effects of anti-epileptic medication or lack of mobility.
Osteoarthritis is a painful degenerative disease of the bones and joints. Though it usually occurs in the elderly, a person with cerebral palsy may develop early-onset osteoarthritis due to muscle spasticity that can put abnormal pressure on the joints.
Mental health conditions
The challenge of coping with physical disabilities can take a toll psychologically. Patients with cerebral palsy may develop depression or other mental health conditions.
The necessity of medical and legal intervention
If your child receives a cerebral palsy diagnosis, you will have to rely on the advice and service of your doctor and their team. However, as a parent, you should understand your rights and the possible complications that may arise. If you suspect that your child’s condition was caused or exacerbated by their treatment, always remember, legal assistance is available to you.