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Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common form of the disorder, affecting around 70% to 80% of all people diagnosed. This form of cerebral palsy mainly affects the muscle groups, but may cause associated disorders as well.
What is Spastic Cerebral Palsy?
Spastic cerebral palsy occurs as a result of brain damage, usually before or during birth, or sometimes within the first years of a child’s life. It’s a disorder that affects coordination and control of motor function.
This results in developmental delays in children. The delays are red flags that usually lead to a diagnosis. Before the delays become noticeable, it’s difficult to tell a child has CP.
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Muscles need enough tone in them to maintain correct posture, to enable standing and walking, and to maintain speed and flexibility. Motor nerve fibers, via the spinal cord, interact with the muscles to help control how they move.
For someone with spastic cerebral palsy, brain damage affects muscle control, coordination, and movement, mainly in the arms and legs. In turn, this influences the way the spinal cord and nerves react, which then causes the muscles to become tense, and spastic.
Children born with spastic cerebral palsy do not usually have limb deformities at birth, but they may develop later due to muscle tenseness and stretching limitations.
Spastic cerebral palsy may be classified as quadriplegic, diplegic, or hemiplegic, according to how and where it affects the body.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy Symptoms
Symptoms may include:
- Involuntary limb movements
- Continuous muscle spasms and contractions
- Abnormal walking, marked by knees crossing in a scissor-like movement
- Joint contractures
- Limited stretching abilities
- Flexion at the elbows, wrists, and fingers
- Poor coordination and control of muscle movements
These symptoms can make it difficult for those with spastic cerebral palsy to walk, get dressed, brush their teeth, use the bathroom, and take a shower without assistance.
The limitations on activities of daily living (ADLs) will depend on how severe the disorder is. Children with mild cases of spastic CP may not need any help but may still have mild difficulties with ADLs.
If both legs are affected, children may also have problems transferring from one position to the next, standing and sitting upright, walking, and running.
Children with spastic cerebral palsy may also develop other nervous system-related symptoms, including:
- Speech difficulties
- Hearing problems
- Vision abnormalities
- Cognitive, learning, and behavioral disabilities
Related problems may include:
- Difficulties with chewing and swallowing
- Hoarse voice or speech problems
- Breathing irregularities
- Failure to thrive or poor weight gain
- Gastric reflux
- Constipation and bladder incontinence
- Spinal and joint deformities
Treatment Options for Spastic Cerebral Palsy
Although there’s no cure for any form of cerebral palsy, there are a number of treatment options available to help control the symptoms, including:
- Physical therapy, as well as language, occupational, and behavioral therapies
- Medications to control symptoms, such as muscle spasms or seizures
- Baclofen pump (to help control muscle spasticity)
- Spine or spinal cord surgery (to repair scoliosis or reduce spasticity)
- Muscle-release and tendon-lengthening surgery
- Devices to aid in communication
- Orthotics, braces, or other devices to help with positioning, standing or muscle control
- Constraint-induced therapy (CIT)
Keep in mind that treatment options will depend on the age of the child, how severe the symptoms are, and any associated disorders.
Parents work with a team of medical experts to implement the best treatments for the child, including therapists, surgeons, dietitians, and neurologists.
What is the Prognosis for Spastic Cerebral Palsy?
Again, there is no cure for spastic cerebral palsy, but with the proper treatment, children can grow up and thrive as adults. It’s essential, however, to start a treatment plan as early as possible for the child to have the best outcomes–not only as an adult but as he or she grows along the path through childhood and into adolescence.
- Cerebral Palsy: Hope Through Research. (2019, November 18). National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Retrieved from: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Hope-Through-Research/Cerebral-Palsy-Hope-Through-Research
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Retrieved from: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/spastic-cp.html
- Management of Spasticity in Children with Cerebral Palsy. (n.d.). PubMed Central (PMC).
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4339555/
- Cerebral Palsy and Spasticity Center | What is Cerebral Palsy? (n.d.). Boston Children's Hospital.
Retrieved from: https://www.childrenshospital.org/Centers-and-Services/Programs/A-_-E/cerebral-palsy-program/what-is-cerebral-palsy
- Spasticity – Causes, Symptoms and Treatments. (n.d.). American Association of Neurological Surgeons.
Retrieved from: https://www.aans.org/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Spasticity
- About Cerebral Palsy Spasticity. (n.d.). St. Louis Children's Hospital, Guardians of Childhood.
Retrieved from: https://www.stlouischildrens.org/conditions-treatments/center-for-cerebral-palsy-spasticity/about