Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis

A cerebral palsy diagnosis is often made between a child’s first and third birthday. While cerebral palsy is often the result of problems during pregnancy or childbirth, the symptoms of this developmental condition do not often develop until around 18 months of age. Parents are often the first to suspect that their child is not developing normally. Failure to reach developmental milestones within the time frame considered “normal” can be a sign that a child might have cerebral palsy, as are abnormal muscle tone and posture.

Keeping track of a child’s developmental progress can be very helpful in determining whether a child has cerebral palsy. While parents might be the first to notice that something is awry, it is necessary for a doctor to complete a series of medical exams in order to rule out or diagnose cerebral palsy.

Doctor’s exam

Due to variances in child development and symptoms that may indicate myriad conditions, making a cerebral palsy diagnosis can be tricky. For this reason, it is important for a doctor to carefully examine both mother and child’s medical history and physical health, and to perform a series of tests.

Medical History

Once developmental problems are suspected, a doctor will first carefully examine the mother and child’s medical history, including the mother’s pregnancy and the childbirth. The doctor will look for any evidence of risk factors, which may aid in ruling out or making a cerebral palsy diagnosis. Cerebral palsy risk factors are those variables, which increase the chances of cerebral palsy, though they do not automatically mean that a child will develop this disability. Cerebral palsy risk factors can include:

During pregnancy:

  • Maternal viral or bacterial infection during pregnancy
  • Maternal disease, including Rubella, toxoplasmosis, and cytomegalovirus (herpes)
  • Rh incompatibility
  • Maternal physical trauma during pregnancy
  • Maternal malnutrition

During childbirth:

Childbirth complications are the cause of 20 percent of all cerebral palsy cases.

  • Asphyxia – half of all newborns who suffer lack of oxygen during childbirth later develop cerebral palsy.
  • For other risk factors, see the causes of cerebral palsy.

After childbirth

  • Physical trauma or injury that damages a young child’s brain can also lead to cerebral palsy.

Motor Skills Test

In addition to taking a comprehensive medical history for both the mother and child, a doctor will also test the child’s motor skills. These tests can help to identify slow development and abnormal muscle tone and assess reflexes, hand preference and posture.

Brain Imaging

Brain imaging tests, such as Computed Tomography (CT) scan and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can help to reveal areas of brain damage, abnormal development, or other physical or functional irregularities. This can help with a cerebral palsy diagnosis.

Testing for other conditions

In order to make a proper cerebral palsy diagnosis, it is important for doctors to rule out other possible conditions, such as seizure disorders, sensory problems and other diseases that may not involve cerebral palsy.

If you have recently received a cerebral palsy diagnosis for your child, you may wish to contact a qualified attorney to determine if medical negligence is to blame for your child’s condition. If this is the case, you might be able to receive lifetime assistance in paying for your medical expenses and recovering your other losses. Please contact us to speak with the qualified and trusted cerebral palsy attorneys at Aitken * Aitken * Cohn.