What Are the Different Types of Cerebral Palsy?


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Cerebral palsy is a medical condition that, in many cases, is caused when there is a lack of oxygen reaching a baby’s brain during labor or childbirth. Many times, children develop cerebral palsy due to birth complications, and there is no medical negligence involved. However, in about 10 percent of cerebral palsy cases, the condition could have been avoided if medical mistakes were prevented. The impact that cerebral palsy has on a family can be significant and it can last a lifetime.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a condition that affects posture and body movement. It is associated with brain injury or brain development. Cerebral palsy is one of the common causes of ongoing disability in children. It causes muscle tightness and reflexive movements that are uncontrollable by the person, and it may affect some or all parts of the body. These symptoms range widely, from fairly mild to acute. In people who have cerebral palsy seizures, hearing and vision issues, and intellectual disability can happen.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy occurs due to a brain injury that happens during pregnancy, delivery, or within the first few years of a child’s life. Causes for cerebral palsy include:

  • Complications due to premature birth
  • Hypoxia – insufficient oxygen to the brain
  • Asphyxia – insufficient oxygen to the body
  • Serious brain injury
  • Traumatic birth
  • Serious infections affecting the brain (for example, meningitis)
  • Genetic disorders that affect brain development

What Are the Types of Cerebral Palsy?

The types of cerebral palsy (CP) are categorized according to the type of body movements and posture that it causes.

Spastic Cerebral Palsy

Spastic CP is the most common type. People who develop spastic CP have tight muscles in various parts of the body that they are unable to relax. The joints that are affected typically become stiff and hard to move. The person may have poor coordination, trouble with balance, uncontrollable movements, and trouble eating and talking.

There are four types of spastic cerebral palsy that are classified based on how many limbs are affected.

  • Hemiplegia or diplegia – In this type of spastic CP one arm and one leg (on the same side) or both legs are involved. This is the most common type of spastic CP.
  • Monoplegia – This type of spastic CP affects only one limb, either arm or leg.
  • Quadriplegia – All four limbs are affected in this type of spastic CP. Typically, the muscles that control the windpipe, mouth and tongue are also affected, making speaking and eating difficult.  
  • Triplegia – In this type of spastic CP, three limbs are affected.

Nonspastic Cerebral Palsy

Nonspastic CP is broken down into two categories – dyskinetic and ataxic.

Dyskinetic – This type of CP involves a person having muscle tone that alternates between being tight and loose. Sometimes quick and jerky or slow continuous body movements occur involuntarily, most commonly affecting the neck and face, feet, hands, legs, arms, and the torso.  Dyskinetic CP is further categorized as:

  • Athetoid – Also known as hyperkinetic CP, it affects the body in the same way as above, but also disrupts a person’s sleep.
  • Dystonic – This type of CP causes a person’s neck and body to be held in a stiff position.

Ataxic – This is the least common type of CP and it involves the entire body. There are abnormal and involuntary movements in the torso and all limbs. Ataxic CP also affects:

  • Balance
  • Precise body movements
  • Coordination
  • Hand control

Mixed Cerebral Palsy

Some people who develop CP fall into more than one of the different types. For example, they may have legs that are spastic (spastic diplegic CP) and issues with muscle control in the face (dyskinetic CP) at the same time.

Total Body Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is considered total body CP when it affects all parts of the body at some level. When the whole body is involved, it is much more likely for further medical complications to develop. Total body CP can include spastic quadriplegic, dyskinetic, and ataxic cerebral palsy.

Getting Legal Help for Your Cerebral Palsy Case

Caring for a child that is affected by cerebral palsy is difficult, both emotionally and financially. They often require a lifetime of care. That care can not only take a toll on the emotional well-being of parents and caregivers, but medical bills can reach overwhelming amounts. If the cerebral palsy resulted from medical negligence or malpractice, a lawsuit can be filed against those who are responsible, providing much needed financial compensation to the family.

If your child has cerebral palsy as a result of a birth injury due to negligence, you need to consult an experienced birth injury attorney. At Ross Feller Casey, our attorneys have an unmatched record in the litigation of birth injury cases. Our cerebral palsy cases are all handled on a contingency basis, and your case evaluation is free. Contact us today so we can help you proceed with your case.

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.