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Is Cerebral Palsy Progressive?

When their child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, parents want to know what type of future their child faces. Although normal development may not be possible, parents search for an idea of how their child's life will unfold with this neurological condition and whether there will be further degeneration as they get older.

Since you must seek financial compensation now, you should have an idea of what children with cerebral palsy face. Once you have an accurate diagnosis, you should contact a cerebral palsy attorney to discuss possible financial compensation.

Cerebral Palsy Will Impact Your Child's Development

According to the Centers for Disease Control. cerebral palsy impacts one in every 345 children.

Although cerebral palsy only affects a small part of the general population, the impacts on your child will be considerable. It will affect movement and cause them to miss some developmental milestones. The abnormal development could set them behind and keep them from leading a fully normal life.

Cerebral palsy will remain with your child for the rest of their life. While the symptoms may be manageable, and therapy can help the developing brain, they will still continue to feel the effects permanently.

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Movement disorders and a motor disability may be caused by brain damage. In most cases, the brain damage happened as a result of trauma in utero or during the birth process. In some rarer cases, cerebral palsy may be caused by genetic disorders.

In most cases, someone else is to blame for your child's case of cerebral palsy. This is a disease that should not happen under normal conditions.

Spastic Cerebral Palsy

The most common form of cerebral palsy is spastic cerebral palsy. Roughly four out of every five people who develop cerebral palsy will develop this type of the disease. Spastic CP affects body movement primarily.

Spastic CP results from an increased muscle tone that makes people who have the condition feel overly stiff. This muscle stiffness can be in the arms or legs, making it difficult for patients to walk without some type of assistance or have complete use of their arms.

Usually, spastic CP is not the most severe form of the disease. However, there is a type of spastic cerebral palsy that can affect the arms and legs as well as the face.

Spastic quadriplegia will also cause intellectual disability, seizures and difficulties with vision and hearing.

Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

This is a severe type of cerebral palsy in which the muscle tone can change by the day. Here, the damage is to the basal ganglia, a part of the brain that controls muscle tone

Patients will have poor balance and involuntary movements. The main problem is that the child will alternate between overly stiff muscles and overly relaxed muscles.

Especially, they cannot sit still and suffer from shaky movements that they cannot control. The child may appear spastic or jerky.

Ataxic CP

Ataxic CP is caused by an injury to the brain's cerebellum.

Ataxic cerebral palsy is primarily a condition that affects coordination and balance. They may have trouble controlling their muscles. For example, children with this type of cerebral palsy may walk with their feet further apart. They may also struggle with fine motor skills, such as grasping a pen and writing.

Not only will children have trouble with activities that require the precise use of their hands, but they may also have difficulty with depth perception.

All of the above types of cerebral palsy may come with other symptoms and difficulting, including:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Depression
  • Speech difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Eating problems
  • Poor vision

Mixed Cerebral Palsy

Mixed CP is when your child has more than one form of cerebral palsy. The most common combination of forms of CP is spastic CP and dyskinetic cerebral palsy. The second most common combination is spastic cerebral palsy and ataxic CP.

Roughly 10-15% of children with cerebral palsy have mixed CP. These are usually the most serious cerebral palsy cases.

Cerebral Palsy Is Not a Progressive Disease

Cerebral palsy results from damage to the brain. Like many brain injuries, cerebral palsy does not get worse over time. In that sense, it is not a progressive disease. Once the damage is done to the brain through premature birth or other birth injuries, it is not reversible.

A progressive disease is defined as one in which the condition gets worse over time. With cerebral palsy, the injury has already happened, and the child must now learn to live with their neurological disorders.

However, cerebral palsy is a permanent condition, and it is not curable. The fact that it is a non progressive disease means that early intervention services and other treatment could make a significant difference in the child's development. Most children will benefit in some way from intensive treatment, even when they suffer severe disabilities from their condition.

Injuries to the Developing Brain Could Change Over the Course of a Lifetime

Even though the brain itself will not degenerate and become damaged worse over time, the symptoms associated with cerebral palsy may change over the course of the child's life.

Of course, intensive therapy and treatment could help improve the person's ability to live a more normal life. It is not out of the question for the child to make considerable progress over time.

However, the symptoms associated with the brain injury could also grow worse over time, even if the brain itself does not suffer any further damage. How a case of cerebral palsy evolves over the years can vary greatly. Because there is abnormal brain development, there are a wide range of outcomes for the child as they grow to a young adult and then to an adult.

In addition, cerebral palsy patients may suffer from mental retardation. This could impact their ability to take care of themselves, and it could lead to other health conditions developing over time.

The Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy Will Last a Lifetime

Cerebral palsy is primarily a movement disorder, and the child will continue to struggle with muscle coordination and to maintain balance for the rest of their life. They may be able to make some progress through improving their muscle tone and motor function, but they will always need to live with the condition.

Although there is research that is improving cerebral palsy treatment, there is currently no cure. Cerebral palsy treatments can be very expensive, and the disease will impose a cost on the family over time.

The Parts of Cerebral Palsy That Can Be Progressive

Depending on the part of the brain that is affected, patients can suffer from mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. One study indicated that nearly 50% of the people who suffer from cerebral palsy will have one or both of these mental health conditions.

Once someone has depression and/or anxiety, the effects could grow worse over time. A lifetime of struggling and not fitting in may cause someone to feel progressively worse over time. The child's ability to lead a normal life, or lack thereof, can have a growing effect on their self-esteem and psyche,

Thus, even if the condition itself is not growing progressively worse, some of the accompanying conditions may degenerate. It is essential for parents to also tend to their child's mental health when they are getting treatment for the physical impairment.

Recognize the Early Signs and Act Quickly

Parents should seek professional medical advice as soon as they suspect that their child may have cerebral palsy. Although the disease is not degenerative, intensive therapy can help bolster the child's fine motor skills and intellectual development.

Different types of cerebral palsy could involve different courses of treatment. Regardless of the type of cerebral palsy, early intervention is critical to the child's long-term success.

Life Expectancy for a Child Diagnosed With Cerebral Palsy

It is impossible to know your child's life expectancy with any type of exactness when they are diagnosed. You may get a general range from the doctor, but it depends on your child's own CP diagnosis and the type of case that they have.

In general, the life expectancy of someone who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy is 30-70 years. For reference, the average life expectancy in the United States is roughly 80 years. However, some children who are diagnosed with CP will have the same exact life expectancy as anyone else.

There are some factors that could influence the life expectancy of someone with cerebral palsy. These factors could cause premature death. Things that can impact life expectancy include:

  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory problems
  • Mobility limitations
  • Cognitive disabilities

Severe limitations will lead to a reduced life expectancy. In addition, people who suffer from severe cerebral palsy will be at a higher risk of things like aspiration pneumonia and viral infection that could eventually lead to death. Some cerebral palsy patients will also suffer from depression that could eventually impact their physical health.

There Are Other Health Conditions Associated With Cerebral Palsy

If anything, what may get worse over time are the other health conditions that are associated with cerebral palsy. These conditions could cut one's life expectancy with cerebral palsy.

Someone who does not have unlimited movement and the ability to get physical exercise could suffer from health impairment that results from a more sedentary lifestyle. If exercise improves your health and prolongs your life, the inability to exercise could have the opposite effect. Children may be more susceptible to infections and respiratory problems.

Contact an Attorney If Your Child Has Suffered a Brain Injury

If your child has suffered brain damage in a birth injury, you may be entitled to significant financial compensation. You must prove that your child's doctor was negligent in the birth process, especially in the face of delivery complications. This could include ignoring known risk factors before and during the delivery.

The costs of cerebral palsy treatment can be prohibitive, and you may not always be able to rely on your health insurance company to pick up the tab for all the necessary treatment. The doctor who was the cause of your child's disease can be made to pay if you are able to prove that they were negligent and acted unreasonably under the circumstances.

Call the birth injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers at (800) 424-5757 or reach out to us online to schedule your initial consultation. We can discuss your case and begin an attorney-client relationship with you that could lead to your family getting the money that you need for treatment of their physical and intellectual impairment.


Here are the answers to some questions that we are commonly asked about cerebral palsy lawsuits by current and prospective clients:

How Do I Win a Cerebral Palsy Case?

You must prove that the medical professional was negligent, meaning that they acted in a way that was unreasonable under the circumstances. You must prove what the individual doctor did and then compare it against what a reasonable doctor would have done.

How Much Is My Cerebral Palsy Case Worth?

This depends on both the type of cerebral palsy and the severity of the brain injury. Many cerebral palsy cases will result in settlements or jury awards above $1 million because this is the average lifetime cost of care. In addition, your child must be paid for the lifetime of pain and suffering that results from this condition. One of the critical functions that an experienced lawyer will perform is coming up with a value of your claim that will be the beginning of your settlement negotiations.

Do I Need a Cerebral Palsy Lawyer?

A cerebral palsy case is a complex medical malpractice action. You would need to prove that the doctor was negligent by comparing their actions to those of a reasonable doctor. This requires someone with a legal background who knows how to develop evidence and understand the medical issues involved.

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