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Series Blog - What is Cerebral Palsy?


Date: 30 May 2017

This article is the second in a series focusing on the group of disorders that make up Cerebral Palsy and the work Sarah and the team do with those who live with it.  

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurological developmental condition affecting movement. It can affect gross motor movement, causing difficulties in getting around and it can affect fine motor movement, the ability to move fingers and hands.

There are different types of CP which affect the muscles in different ways. There are CPs which make the muscles very tight, others which reduce the tone of the muscles making them loose and there are CPs which cause involuntary movements. Also there can be a mixed pattern of injury.

Different types of CP are caused by different injuries or conditions and often it is possible to say what the likely cause of a CP is just by looking at how the individual presents, although obviously brain imaging (usually an MRI scan) can be a great help too.

In addition CP can cause or be associated with a number of other conditions such as epilepsy, learning difficulties and visual impairment and we tend to find that no 2 individuals have exactly the same CP.

This is why compensation packages need to be tailor made to the individual Claimant.

The causes of CP are varied and the majority of CPs are not connected to clinical negligence, however where negligence is involved this is usually due to some kind of problem during pregnancy, labour, delivery or within the first few days of life. A notable exception to this is meningitis which can cause CP sometimes and we get involved if the diagnosis is missed or delayed.

Where CP is caused around the time of birth this can be as a result of a number of different obstetric emergencies which cause the baby’s oxygen supply to be reduced or even cut off for a time. Delay in delivery is a common cause as is untreated maternal infection and traumatic deliveries.

Causes after birth (neonatally) can be over-ventilation, low blood sugar and infection.

Children and individuals with CP can have a huge spectrum of impairments from a little difficulty in independent walking and managing zips and fasteners to being completely dependent on others for every aspect of their care and daily life.

Because CP is a developmental condition it evolves over time and apart from in the most severe and obvious cases it can take time to show itself and then to reach a stage where the final picture is clear. Diagnosis in a child is not normally made until the child begins to miss developmental milestones such as sitting and walking and then the condition can evolve until the child is around 7 years old at which point it is usually possible to be fairly certain as to how that child will be in the future. This is why CP claims can seem to take a very long time to deal with. If a claim is settled or concluded before a child is 7, there is a serious risk that the compensation package will not be appropriate.

In Sarah’s opinion, this can be one of the hardest things for parents: “it’s the constant watching and waiting. All a parent wants to know is what is going to happen to their child but with the best will in the world, the doctors can’t tell them because they just don’t know”.

If you need any help or information regarding cerebral palsy please speak to Sarah Barclay or Trudy Buck on 01253 356051.


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