Changes in walking ability, intellectual disability, and epilepsy in adults with cerebral palsy over 50 years: a population-based follow-up study

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2021 Jul;63(7):839-845. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.14871. Epub 2021 Mar 27.


Aim: To determine if walking ability and presence of intellectual disability and epilepsy change from childhood to 50 years of age in individuals with cerebral palsy (CP), and if such changes are related to age, sex, or CP subtype.

Method: This was a population-based follow-up study of 142 adults born from 1959 to 1978 (82 males, 60 females; mean age 48y 4mo, range 37-58y; 44% unilateral, 35% bilateral, 17% dyskinetic, and 4% ataxic CP) listed in the CP register of western Sweden. We compared childhood data with a follow-up assessment in 2016.

Results: At follow-up, walking ability had changed significantly (p<0.001). The proportion of participants walking without aids had decreased from 71% to 62%, and wheelchair ambulation increased from 18% to 25%. Walking ability was related to subtype (p=0.001), but not to age, sex, pain, fatigue, or body mass index. The proportion classified as having intellectual disability had increased from 16% to 22% (p=0.039) and the proportion with epilepsy from 9% to 18% (p=0.015). Of those with childhood epilepsy, 46% were seizure-free without medication.

Interpretation: Walking ability and the presence of intellectual disability and epilepsy had changed significantly since childhood. Life-long access to specialized health care is warranted for re-evaluation of impairments, treatment, and assistance. What this paper adds Changes in impairments in individuals with cerebral palsy (CP) over time are related to CP subtype. After 50 years, walking ability in CP may have deteriorated or improved. Intellectual disability in CP may not always be detected in early childhood assessments. Epilepsy in CP may develop after childhood or may be outgrown.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cerebral Palsy / complications
  • Cerebral Palsy / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Progression
  • Epilepsy / complications
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / complications
  • Intellectual Disability / physiopathology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Registries
  • Sweden
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Young Adult