Neuro-ophthalmological disorders in cerebral palsy: ophthalmological, oculomotor, and visual aspects

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2012 Aug;54(8):730-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2012.04324.x. Epub 2012 Jun 19.


Aim: Cerebral visual impairment (CVI) is a disorder caused by damage to the retrogeniculate visual pathways. Cerebral palsy (CP) and CVI share a common origin: 60 to 70% of children with CP also have CVI. We set out to describe visual dysfunction in children with CP. A further aim was to establish whether different types of CP are associated with different patterns of visual involvement.

Methods: A total of 129 patients (54 females, 75 males; mean age 4 y 6 mo, SD 3 y 5 mo; range 3 mo-15 y) with CP (51 with diplegia, 61 with tetraplegia, and 17 with hemiplegia; 62 [48%] of participants were able to walk) and CVI enrolled at the Centre of Child Neuro-ophthalmology (at the Department of Child Neurology and Psychiatry, IRCCS 'C. Mondino Institute of Neurology', University of Pavia) underwent an assessment protocol including neurological examination, developmental and/or cognitive assessment, neuro-ophthalmological evaluation including ophthalmological assessment, evaluation of visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, optokinetic nystagmus, visual field and stereopsis, and neuroradiological investigations.

Results: Visual dysfunction in diplegia was characterized mainly by refractive errors (75% of patients), strabismus (90%), abnormal saccadic movements (86%), and reduced visual acuity (82%). The participants with hemiplegia showed strabismus (71%) and refractive errors (88%); oculomotor involvement was less frequent (59%). This group had the largest percentage of patients with altered visual field (64%). Children with tetraplegia showed a severe neuro-ophthalmological profile, characterized by ocular abnormalities (98%), oculomotor dysfunction (100%), and reduced visual acuity (98%).

Interpretation: Neuro-ophthalmological disorders are one of the main symptoms in CP. Each clinical type of CP is associated with a distinct neuro-ophthalmological profile. Early and careful neuro-ophthalmological assessment of children with CP is essential for an accurate diagnosis and for personalized rehabilitation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cerebral Palsy / classification
  • Cerebral Palsy / complications
  • Cerebral Palsy / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Ocular Motility Disorders / diagnosis
  • Ocular Motility Disorders / etiology
  • Ocular Motility Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Vision Disorders / diagnosis
  • Vision Disorders / etiology
  • Vision Disorders / physiopathology*