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Cerebral Palsy Statistics in the United States (Latest Stats Update)

Cerebral Palsy Statistics

Cerebral palsy (CP) remains the most common childhood disability in the United States, affecting nearly three newborns per 1,000 live births.

The CDC [1] (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) categorizes cerebral palsy as a group of disorders affecting the individual’s capacity to move and maintain posture and balance.

Below you will find some of the most valuable cerebral palsy statistics grouped by different topics to give you a sense of how pervasive this condition is.

Cerebral Palsy Key Facts

  • CP continues to be the most common physical disability in babies, infants, toddlers, and young males and females.
  • In nearly every incidence, brain injury leads to cerebral palsy during pregnancy.
  • After birth, CP is a lifelong physical disability due to the injured developing brain.
  • Our legal team recently updated the latest cerebral palsy prevalence statistics. Contact us today for additional information or access to our resources.
  • Doctors can accurately diagnose most cerebral palsy cases in the first 12 to 18 months, except mild CP forms.
  • Some young adults and children with cerebral palsy experience mild forms like weakness in one foot or hand, and others have a total lack of voluntary movement.
  • Severe cases of CP cause significant physical disabilities that require assistance twenty-four hours a day.
  • Some CP diagnoses involve spastic hemiplegia for children having difficulty voluntarily moving one-half of the body.
  • Nearly 40% of children with cerebral palsy are diagnosed with hemiplegia.
  • Medical science has yet to find a cure for cerebral palsy
  • Some cases will not be accurately diagnosed until the boy or girl reaches their eighth year of age.
  • CP is caused by abnormal brain development, usually before birth
  • Common symptoms include involuntary motions, rigid or floppy limbs, or exaggerated reflexes
  • Doctors treat cerebral palsy with medications, physical therapies, and sometimes surgery

Cerebral Palsy Prevalence

A CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) study published in Pediatrics Journal recognizes significant advancements in the care provided during pregnancy and delivery, increasing a newborn survival rate.

The medical improvements have reduced the number of births involving children born too small or too early, the two major contributing factors to increasing cerebral palsy rates.

Current Cerebral Palsy Prevalence Statistics

  • The prevalence of cerebral palsy in the US affects nearly 765,000 children and adults
  • Approximately 500,000 children seventeen years of age and younger have been diagnosed with CP
  • Cerebral palsy affects approximately three children per 1,000 live births but has been slightly higher in multiple years over the past few decades
  • Approximately 10,000 babies are diagnosed with CP at birth annually
  • An additional 10,000 infants are diagnosed with cerebral palsy every year in the months and years following their birth
  • Doctors diagnose approximately 1500 preschool-aged children with cerebral palsy each year
  • Cerebral palsy prevalence and boys (3.6 per 1,000 live births) is significantly higher than in girls (2.5 per 1,000 live births)
  • By race, black children have a higher prevalence of cerebral palsy (3.9 per 1,000 live births) than white children (2.7 per 1,000 live births), Hispanic children (2.4 per 1,000 live births), and Asian children (1.3 per 1,000 live births)

Cerebral Palsy Types

According to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, many children with cerebral palsy experience a bilateral form (quadriplegia or diplegia), unilateral form (hemiplegia), or others.

The type of cerebral palsy will also affect the severity of the condition and how it affects the body’s gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and communication skills.

Cerebral Palsy Type Statistics

Medical science identifies four distinct types of CP based on unique characteristics and movement disorders, including ataxic, dyskinetic, mixed, and spastic.

The cerebral palsy prevalence rates for all types of CP include:

  • Spastic (motor cortex damage) cerebral palsy has the highest incident rate (77%), with characteristic tight and stiff muscles
  • Dyskinetic (basal ganglia damage) cerebral palsy represents approximately 5% of cerebral palsy cases, causing involuntary movements
  • Ataxic (cell or bone damage) cerebral palsy happens less often (3%), leaving the individual’s shaking movements, and challenges with balance and sense of positioning
  • Mixed cerebral palsy cases make up the remaining 13%, usually arising from a combination of different brain damages

Cerebral Palsy Symptoms

Symptoms associated with cerebral palsy include involuntary motions, rigid limbs, floppy limbs, or exaggerated reflexes. The population experiencing cerebral palsy might also have challenges with walking ability, or muscle rigidity, stiff muscles, coordination problems, permanent muscle shortening, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, involuntary movement, overactive reflexes, and one-body side paralysis.

Developmental symptoms associated with CP include a failure to thrive, delayed speech, slowed growth, and learning disabilities. Many adults and children with CP stutter or experience a speech disorder.

Other associated symptoms include drooling, difficulty swallowing, constipation, seizures, paralysis, urinary incontinence, hearing loss, physical deformity, fidgeting, spastic gait, tremoring, teeth grinding, and challenges raising the foot.

Early Signs of Cerebral Palsy

Families might detect the early signs of CP when their little loved one should be reaching their milestones, including rolling over, crawling on all fours, sitting up, standing, and eventually walking. A developmental movement delay that passes a typical milestone might be indicative of cerebral palsy.

However, many children experience delayed movement goals, even if they had a normal birth weight or showed no prevalence of cerebral palsy. Some indicators of possible cerebral palsy might include:

  • Newborns 3 to 6 months old– The newborn’s head falls backward when picked up from a prone position, feels floppy or stiff, back or neck overextensions when cradled, or the legs stiffen or scissor when picked up.
  • Infants 6 months old or older – The infant never rolls over in either direction, Never brings the hands together, cannot put a hand to their mouth, or reaches out using one hand while the other one is fisted.
  • Babies 10 months old and older– Displays a lopsided crawl, pushes off using one leg and one hand while the other side drags, Hobbs on needs or school surround on their buttocks but never crawls using all fours.

Cerebral Palsy Symptom Statistics

  • Nearly six out of ten cerebral palsy cases involve children who can walk independently without needing mobility device assistance
  • Approximately 10% of children diagnosed with cerebral palsy walk independently without needing crutches, walkers, or another hand-held mobility device
  • Nearly one out of three children with cerebral palsy require wheelchairs or other devices due to their compromised walking ability
  • Doctors will diagnose additional developmental in one out of six 8-year-old children with cerebral palsy, including an intellectual, epilepsy, or visual impairment

Cerebral Palsy Risk Factors & Causes

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) identifies cerebral palsy risk factors and causes that affect the child’s inability to control their muscles. According to statistics, almost 90% of all cerebral palsy cases are congenital, where the brain is damaged during pregnancy or the birthing process.

Congenital Cerebral Palsy Risk Factors

Numerous contributing factors can increase the potential of a newborn. These risk factors do not necessarily mean the newborn will develop CP, but only a significant increase in the potential of a congenital CP diagnosis. The CP at birth prevalence risk factors include:

Low Birth Weight – Babies born weighing less than 2500 g (5.5 pounds) at birth have half an increased risk of congenital CP prevalence rate, especially newborns weighing less than 1500 g (3.4 pounds)

Multiple Births – Birthing twins, triplets, or more multiple births increased the potential risk of congenital CP, especially if one baby dies before birth or immediately after delivery.

Premature Birth – Newborns delivered during the thirty-six weeks of gestation or sooner have an increased potential of congenital CP, especially children born in the thirty-first week of pregnancy or sooner

ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) – Children born from an infertility treatment pregnancy have an increased chance of having congenital CP. Likely, the potential CP prevalence rate increase results from multiple births, premature delivery, or both.

Pregnancy-Related Infection – Some infections can increase cytokines (proteins) circulating in the fetus’s blood and brain in the womb. The cytokines cause information, leading to the baby’s brain damage, as does a pregnant mother’s fever before birth. Infections associated with cerebral palsy include chickenpox, German measles (rubella), and CMV (cytomegalovirus) viruses.

Kernicterus and Jaundice – An Rh or ABO blood type difference between the child and mother when pregnant can result in kernicterus, for the baby’s red blood cells break down too quickly, resulting in severe jaundice. Jaundice is recognizable in the newborn’s yellow skin color when the bilirubin chemical builds up in the newborn’s bloodstream.

Maternal Medical Condition – The mother’s medical conditions, including intellectual disability, thyroid difficulties, and seizures, can slightly increase the child’s risk of developing congenital CP.

Birth Complication – Numerous complications at birth can result in cerebral palsy, including uterine rupture, placenta detachment, umbilical cord issues during the birthing process, and the baby’s disruptive oxygen supply.

Acquired Cerebral Palsy Risk Factors

A few contributing factors can lead to acquired cerebral palsy, where brain damage occurs in a small percentage of newborns over twenty-eight days after they were born. Most cases of acquired CP are caused by a head injury or infection, including meningitis.

Many children are born with the contributing factors listed below or develop them within the first few weeks after birth. However, only a tiny percentage develop cerebral palsy. Nearly all cases of acquired cerebral palsy develop because of:

Injury – Nearly any brain injury can lead to cerebral palsy, including trauma to the head from child abuse or a motor vehicle accident

Infection – Any brain infection, including encephalitis or meningitis during infancy, could potentially lead to CP

Brain blood flow problems – A CBA (cerebrovascular accident, like brain bleeding or stroke, could lead to CP, as could blood clotting issues, improperly formed blood vessels, sickle-cell disease, or a congenital heart defect

Preventing Cerebral Palsy

Medical science has yet to identify all known reasons or causes for congenital cerebral palsy, meaning that doctors do not have all the tools necessary to prevent genetic complications. However, actions are available for people to do before and during their pregnancy, reducing the potential risk of developing developmental conditions, including CP and autism spectrum disorders.

Steps that might prevent CP include:

Before Pregnancy

  • Stay as healthy as possible before becoming pregnant to guard against acquiring an infection
  • Get chickenpox and rubella vaccinations before your pregnancy to avoid specific diseases that could harm the developing fetus
  • Talk to your doctor about any way to reduce the potential of multiple pregnancies if using ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) infertility treatments to get pregnant

During Pregnancy and Delivery

Women wishing to get pregnant should talk with their doctors about preventing gestation and birthing complications if they are at risk for premature delivery. The doctor may recommend magnesium sulfate or other treatments for women wanting to become pregnant to help reduce the potential risk of developing CP in their surviving infants.

Other steps include:

  • Visit your gynecologist often to receive early and routine prenatal care to ensure your health and the health of the developing fetus
  • Wash hands using soap and water often to avoid acquiring an infection that could harm the developing fetus
  • See your doctor right away if you have a fever, get sick, or notice any other signs of an infection while pregnant
  • Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendation to get a flu shot to protect the unborn fetus
  • Learn your blood type and speak with your healthcare provider on how to prevent jaundice and kernicterus if you have an incompatible Rh or ABO blood type.
  • Speak with your healthcare provider about preventing

After the Baby’s Birth

  • Take every step possible to ensure your baby’s safety and health, especially in the first few weeks after delivery
  • Have the baby’s pediatrician check the newborn for jaundice before leaving the hospital and within two days after returning home. Look at your baby’s jaundice bilirubin test and take every step possible to prevent brain damage (kernicterus) if you and your child have an incompatible Rh blood type.
  • Vaccinate your child against encephalitis and meningitis infections, including the pneumococcal vaccine (streptococcus pneumonia) and the HiB vaccine (Haemophilus influenza type B)
  • Buckle your newborn, infant, or toddler in a government-approved child or infant car seat, seat belt, or booster seat based on the child’s age, weight, and height.
  • Create and maintain a living and playing environment for your child and install window guards on the windows, doors, and stairways.
  • Continually supervise young children in wading pools, swimming pools, bathtubs, or natural bodies of water, while avoiding any distracting activity like talking on the phone, reading, or using a hand-held device/computer.
  • Fit your child for an approved helmet to always be used for certain activities, including riding a bicycle.
  • Never harm your child by shaking, throwing, or hitting the body.

Screening and Diagnosing Cerebral Palsy

A diagnostician accurately identifying cerebral palsy (CP) early is crucial to the child’s development and life experiences. Typically, the diagnostician will conduct numerous steps, including:

  • Developmental monitoring
  • Developmental screening
  • Medical and developmental evaluations

The doctor will surveil the child’s developmental growth by monitoring and tracking their movement in maturing goals over time. The surveillance occurs each time a well-child visits their pediatrician, and the doctor asks parents about any of their child’s developmental concerns.

The doctor updates the infant’s developmental history and watches the patient during their physical examination to identify their movement based on standardized growth scales.

Developmental Monitoring

Monitoring the child’s development is crucial, especially in patients at higher risk for developmental issues caused by low birth weight or premature birth. Any pediatrician with concerns about the child’s growth goals should be verified with developmental screening tests conducted as soon as possible.

Developmental Screening

Developmental screening is crucial to identify any problems with movement and motor delays. The doctor may follow the American Academy of Pediatric questionnaires and interviews performed regularly, including at nine months, eighteen months, and twenty-four months.

Any goal not reached at a standard milestone typically requires a medical and developmental evaluation and early intervention that provides a child additional services.

Medical and Developmental Evaluations

The pediatrician must identify any disorder that causes speech problems, hearing loss, visual impairment, seizures, or intellectual disabilities, including cerebral palsy. These evaluations are typically performed by neurodevelopmental pediatricians, developmental pediatricians, or other specialists specially trained in childhood development.

The doctor may recommend evaluations by a child neurologist that can identify any childhood disease involving the brain, nurse, or spine. A pediatric rehabilitation doctor or pediatric psychiatrist trained explicitly in child rehabilitation, and physical medicine could also be helpful.

Medical and developmental evaluations can assist in the diagnosis of CP or other disorders affecting the child. The evaluations identify any motor or movement delays.

Typically, the pediatrician will evaluate the child’s muscle tone, motor skills, posture, reflexes, and comprehensive medical history provided by the parents. The evaluation could rule out other medical disorders that share similar symptoms.

The doctor may recommend additional tests, including brain imaging tests, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), CT (computed tomography) scan, metabolic testing, and genetic testing.

The National Institutes of Health studies identify CP as a neurological motor disorder resulting from underlying mechanisms in utero or after birth. The child’s risk for acquiring CP is gestational age-dependent, where preterm neonates have a higher CP prevalence rate than newborns.

The government agency’s data show that intervention in treatments preventing premature birth or assisting in premature delivery could reduce the incident rate of CP.

Surveillance of Cerebral Palsy and Affected Birth Weight

Surveillance of cerebral palsy in Europe (SEPE) [1] monitors prevalence rates among large populations in different studies around the world. The researchers monitor clinical type and birth weight subgroups to gather data that identifies accurate descriptions of conditions affecting children with cerebral palsy.

The organization provides information and research data that improves understanding of the complexities of CP and identifying and classifying diagnosed cerebral palsy. The organization uses various tools, including classification trees, Viking Speech Scale, and the Bimanual Fine Motor Function (BFMF) classification.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) publishes the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report revealing the economic costs of providing care and services to children with cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities. The source report includes both the family’s costs and expenses paid by the federal government.

The Family’s Cost of Cerebral Palsy

Raising a person with cerebral palsy into adulthood requires long-term support and care services due to associating medical conditions and developmental disabilities, including seizures, hearing impairment, vision loss, and cognitive issues.

The family often spends a lifetime diagnosing, treating, and maintaining the child with CP’s health problems. The family faces significant expenses and caring for a person with cerebral palsy, including the ongoing need for special education services, medical care, assisted living, and developmental assistance.

In addition to direct cause, the family faces indirect costs of reduced wages if one family member must stay home and lose productivity to generate additional income.

The Nation’s Cost of Cerebral Palsy

There are high costs for the nation, where the United States government will likely spend billions of dollars providing care and services to children with cerebral palsy. These treatments will include visual impairment and hearing loss services.

These costs include:

Direct medical expenses – Billions of dollars are spent on the lifetime costs of prescription medications, doctor visits, inpatient hospital stays, rehabilitation, therapy, assistive devices, and long-term care,

Direct non-medical expenses – Billions are spent every year on automobile modifications, home modifications, special education,

Indirect expenses – Billions are spent on the lifetime costs involving work limitations or the inability to work.

The CDC reports that the average cost of the family providing care to a child or young adult with CP will spend nearly $1 million in lifetime costs. The listed expenses do not include ER visits, out-of-pocket expenses, and the lost earnings of any family member providing care to their loved one.

Resources: [1] CDC , [2] Surveillance of cerebral palsy in Europe

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