Cerebral palsy in children: a clinical overview

Transl Pediatr. 2020 Feb;9(Suppl 1):S125-S135. doi: 10.21037/tp.2020.01.01.


Cerebral palsy (CP) is a disorder characterized by abnormal tone, posture and movement and clinically classified based on the predominant motor syndrome-spastic hemiplegia, spastic diplegia, spastic quadriplegia, and extrapyramidal or dyskinetic. The incidence of CP is 2-3 per 1,000 live births. Prematurity and low birthweight are important risk factors for CP; however, multiple other factors have been associated with an increased risk for CP, including maternal infections, and multiple gestation. In most cases of CP the initial injury to the brain occurs during early fetal brain development; intracerebral hemorrhage and periventricular leukomalacia are the main pathologic findings found in preterm infants who develop CP. The diagnosis of CP is primarily based on clinical findings. Early diagnosis is possible based on a combination of clinical history, use of standardized neuromotor assessment and findings on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); however, in most clinical settings CP is more reliably recognized by 2 years of age. MRI scan is indicated to delineate the extent of brain lesions and to identify congenital brain malformations. Genetic tests and tests for inborn errors of metabolism are indicated based on clinical findings to identify specific disorders. Because CP is associated with multiple associated and secondary medical conditions, its management requires a multidisciplinary team approach. Most children with CP grow up to be productive adults.

Keywords: Cerebral palsy (CP); extrapyramidal; physiotherapy; spastic diplegia; spastic hemiplegia; spastic quadriplegia; spasticity.

Publication types

  • Review