Evaluation of the child with cerebral palsy

Semin Pediatr Neurol. 2004 Mar;11(1):47-57. doi: 10.1016/j.spen.2004.01.007.


Cerebral palsy (CP) is a common problem, occurring in about 2 to 2.5 per 1000 live births. The diagnosis of CP is based upon a history of abnormal motor development that is not progressive coupled with an examination (e.g. hypertonicity, increased reflexes, clonus) "placing" the lesion in the brain. In order to establish that a brain abnormality exists in children with CP that may, in turn, suggest an etiology and prognosis, neuroimaging is recommended with magnetic resonance imaging preferred to computed tomography. Metabolic and genetic studies should be obtained if there are atypical features in the history or on the examination. Detection of a brain malformation in a child with CP might suggest an underlying genetic or metabolic etiology. As cerebral infarction is high in children with hemiplegic CP, diagnostic testing for coagulation disorders should be considered. However, there is insufficient evidence at present to be precise as to what studies should be ordered. An electroencephalogram is not recommended unless there are features suggestive of epilepsy or a specific epileptic syndrome. As children with CP may have associated deficits of mental retardation, ophthalmologic and hearing impairments, speech and language disorders and oral-motor dysfunction, screening for these conditions should be part of the initial assessment.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cerebral Palsy / complications
  • Cerebral Palsy / diagnosis*
  • Cerebral Palsy / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developmental Disabilities*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods
  • Epilepsy / etiology
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / etiology
  • Language Disorders / etiology
  • Movement Disorders / complications
  • Movement Disorders / diagnosis
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensation Disorders / etiology