cerebral palsy

Last reviewed 01/2019

Cerebral palsy is a persistent qualitative motor disorder which appears before age three and is due to non-progressive damage to the brain.

  • cerebral palsies of childhood are predominantly motor syndromes, not diseases, caused by a variety of pathologies. There is an abnormality of movement or posture and tone which is usually not progressive but is commonly associated with sensory abnormalities, cognitive deficits and epilepsy

Cerebral palsy is the most common cause of physical disability in children and young people in the developed world, with a prevalence of around 2 to 2.5 per 1,000

  • the term describes a group of permanent, non-progressive abnormalities of the developing fetal or neonatal brain that lead primarily to disorders of movement and posture, causing 'activity limitation' and 'functional impact'.

The interaction of primary neurological and secondary physiological factors leads to challenges in terms of both early recognition of cerebral palsy and lifelong management for the person and their families. Children with cerebral palsy generally present to services in 1 of 2 ways:

  • either by identification of atypical motor patterns in those considered at high risk because of antenatal or perinatal complications, or
  • because of atypical motor development picked up during background population assessment