Neuroimaging and cerebral palsy in children

Minerva Pediatr. 2009 Aug;61(4):415-24.


Cerebral palsy (CP) is a description of a spectrum of central nervous system (CNS) impairments that affect mobility, communication, intellectual ability, and neurobehavior as a result of developmental brain dysfunction. CP is the most common contributor to motor disability in children with prevalence of about 2-3/1000 live births globally. Presently, no curative therapies or successful methods of prevention on a population level are available for children with one of the cerebral palsy syndromes. Despite these challenges, orthopedic, rehabilitation, neuropharmacological, and other management interventions can help maintain mobility, prevent deformity, and promote quality of life for children with CP. Typically, the diagnosis of CP is based on clinical observations and parent concerns regarding delays in attaining motor milestones (e.g., rolling, sitting, crawling, walking), not on laboratory testing or neuroimaging. However, since 2004 the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has recommended that neuroimaging of the CNS be part of diagnostic process for cerebral palsy. Although the guideline was initially met with controversy and criticism, neuroimaging has allowed a broader appreciation of timing of lesions, extent of white matter involvement, and the complexity of the motor spectrum of disability. In this article we shall describe the major types of neuroimaging techniques and review their roles in identification and evaluation of children with one of the cerebral palsy syndromes. The authors will focus on the emerging knowledge of how brain structure can inform us about children's functioning, especially among children with prematurity, recognizing that we are only beginning to understand brain plasticity and developmental resiliency.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Palsy / diagnosis*
  • Cerebral Palsy / diagnostic imaging
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / etiology
  • Intracranial Hemorrhages / etiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Ultrasonography