Infantile cerebral palsy (ICP) is brain damage that can occur before, during and after birth. The symptoms are varied and there is no cure. However, the symptoms can be alleviated by the early use of various therapies.
What is infantile cerebral palsy?
According to abbreviationfinder, the most common symptoms of infantile cerebral palsy are postural and movement disorders. But far more and very different symptoms occur with the disease, depending on which brain areas are affected by the damage.
Infantile cerebral palsy is a posture and movement disorder caused by brain damage in early childhood. The damage can be caused before birth, but also during the birth process and in the first year after birth.
Infantil means “concerning the child, childlike”, cerebral comes from the Latin term cerebrum for “brain” and paresis is the medical term for “paralysis”. The disorders of infantile cerebral palsy are very diverse, depending on which region of the brain is damaged. Too much muscle tension and a lack of coordination of movements are typical.
Seizures are common, sometimes there is intellectual disability and behavioral abnormalities. Infantile cerebral palsy is rare, only about 0.5% of newborns are affected. The disease occurs more often in boys than in girls; Premature babies have an increased risk of infantile cerebral palsy.
Infantile cerebral palsy can be triggered by various causes, but the exact processes that led to the brain damage are not always known. The prenatal (prenatal) causes of infantile cerebral palsy include poisoning caused by the mother drinking more alcohol or drugs, infectious diseases such as toxoplasmosis or rubella, blood group incompatibility between mother and child, poor supply to the placenta or metabolic disorders.
Perinatal (during birth), infantile cerebral palsy can be caused by a lack of oxygen, for example when the umbilical cord is pinched. However, cerebral hemorrhages, which can occur during difficult births, can also lead to infantile cerebral palsy.
Detachment of the placenta is also a possible cause of infantile cerebral palsy. After birth (postnatal), infection or brain trauma (injury to the brain) can cause the condition.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Various movement and posture peculiarities occur in infantile cerebral palsy (ICP). The disease is characterized by weak muscles and slowed motor skills. Depending on the location of the brain damage, other symptoms and complaints can also occur.
Involuntary movement sequences, coordination disorders and seizures usually occur. Furthermore, the affected children suffer from reduced intelligence, which results in learning disabilities and mental health problems. Patients often show behavioral problems, such as aggression or strong fears.
Individual movement disorders can cause permanent damage to muscles, bones and joints. In severe cases, bones and joints deform, which usually leads to further health problems. Typical of ICP is a pointed foot, i.e. a foot with toes pointing upwards. The severely shortened Achilles tendon can also lead to chronic pain and an unusual gait.
A curvature of the spine is also characteristic of infantile cerebral palsy. Hip misalignments and shortening of the limbs can also occur. Finally, the disease causes spastic syndromes. The muscles are permanently tense, which results in cramps and pain.
Stiffening of the joints can accompany the muscle paralysis. Symptoms of paralysis mainly appear on the legs and feet. The ICP symptoms can vary greatly, with most patients having a mixed form of the symptoms mentioned.
Diagnosis & History
The most common symptoms of infantile cerebral palsy are postural and movement disorders. But far more and very different symptoms occur with the disease, depending on which brain areas are affected by the damage.
The doctors speak here of different syndromes of infantile cerebral palsy, i.e. of several symptoms occurring together. The most common is the spastic syndrome, in which muscle tension is increased, spasms develop and paralysis can occur.
In the hypotonic syndrome of infantile cerebral palsy, mainly the cerebellum is damaged. This leads to very little muscle tension with overstretched joints; the children often suffer from mental retardation and sometimes have epileptic seizures. In the congenital (born with) ataxia syndrome of infantile cerebral palsy, children have difficulty controlling and coordinating their movements. They have balance disorders, paralysis and are slowed down in their movement development.
Finally, the dyskinetic syndrome is characterized by changing muscle tension, spastic paralysis and so-called athetoses (uncontrolled violent movements of the limbs). Since movement and posture disorders can also be triggered by other causes, the doctor must examine the affected child carefully and draw up a detailed medical history. Only through the results of all examinations and through close observation of the child can he make the diagnosis of infantile cerebral palsy with certainty.
This disease causes severe damage to the brain. As a rule, it is not possible to treat these symptoms causally, so that only symptomatic therapy is available for those affected. Patients suffer from severe movement and concentration disorders. Balance disorders can also occur, which significantly limit the everyday life of the person concerned.
The movement of the muscles is also restricted in the patient and convulsions or epileptic seizures occur. These can also lead to death. In some cases, patients also suffer from paralysis or spasticity. Children in particular can become victims of bullying or teasing. The general development of the child is clearly disturbed and limited by the disease.
The person affected may be dependent on the help of other people in adulthood. Visual disturbances can also occur. The intelligence of the patient is also reduced in most cases. Treatment is primarily aimed at reducing symptoms. However, in many cases the psychological treatment of the parents or relatives is also necessary.
When should you go to the doctor?
Infantile cerebral palsy is usually diagnosed immediately after birth and treated in the hospital. Affected children suffer from a variety of ailments and need to be closely monitored and treated by a doctor. For this reason, the child must be taken to a specialist several times a week, who can clarify the current state of health and, if necessary, adjust the medication. If serious complications arise, the emergency services must be called.
In the case of recurring muscle cramps, spasmodic attacks or signs of paralysis, immediate medical attention is required due to the risk of accidents and falls. In addition to the general practitioner, various doctors must be consulted. Poor posture requires physiotherapy and occupational therapy, while speech disorders need to be treated by a speech therapist. Neurologists and internists are responsible for complaints such as epilepsy, developmental disorders and pathological reflexes. The parents of affected children should first talk to their family doctor or pediatrician and decide together with them whether and which specialists need to be involved in the therapy.
Treatment & Therapy
Infantile cerebral palsy requires extensive treatment with therapies from different areas. Success largely depends on starting treatment early. There is no cure for infantile cerebral palsy, but the affected child can be given the best possible support in their development and abilities.
As a rule, a therapy plan is drawn up, according to which action is taken. thechildrenare sponsored by speech therapy, physiotherapy and ergotherapy. This improves their mobility, their ability to speak and their ability to cope with everyday life. In addition, neuroleptics (calm the nerves) and antispasmodics (against muscle cramps) can support the therapy.
In order to achieve better mobility, functional splints, walking aids and other aids can be used. In the case of severely shortened tendons, excessive misalignment of joints or if the spine is very crooked, surgical interventions are also carried out for infantile cerebral palsy. In the process, tendons are lengthened; nerves severed to relax cramped muscles; Bones rearranged to bring joints back into the anatomically correct position or unstable (loose) joints stiffened.
Outlook & Forecast
The disease has an unfavorable prognosis. Despite all efforts and various therapeutic approaches, there is irreparable damage to the brain. These do not allow recovery or complete freedom from symptoms with the current medical possibilities. The prospect of alleviating the symptoms is assessed individually immediately after birth or in the further course of development of the child. Only then can the extent of the cerebral injuries be foreseen.
The aim of treatment is to reduce existing impairments and improve the general quality of life. The movement possibilities are trained and the cognitive performance should be optimized in individual exercises. The social integration of the affected person in the environment is monitored, since behavioral problems often occur that trigger interpersonal disturbances.
Despite an extensive and complex therapy plan, the patient is in many cases dependent on the daily help and support of relatives or a nursing team. In particularly difficult situations, an inpatient stay is necessary. Language ability and intelligence do not correspond to the skills of a healthy person. This makes it difficult to lead an independent life. Various tests are used to assess the available options. Treatment forms are then initiated as quickly as possible. The sooner therapy can begin, the better the prospects of improved quality of life and alleviation of symptoms.
It is not possible to prevent infantile cerebral palsy, but with regular examinations during pregnancy, pathological processes can be detected early and possibly treated. Although there is no cure for a child with infantile cerebral palsy, the symptoms and disability can be reduced by starting treatment early.
Infantile cerebral palsy is a disability that occurs primarily in children. In Germany, 195,000 children are affected, which means that one in 500 children develops cerebral palsy. The term is made up of the words “cerebrum” (Latin for “brain”) and “paresis” (Latin for “paralysis”).
However, it is not a question of paralysis of the brain, but of damage to the same, which results in physical paralysis. The exact cause cannot be determined in around half of the cases, but it can be stated that a lack of oxygen is the most common cause of infantile cerebral palsy.
Disabilities or impairments can arise at three different stages: before birth (prenatal), during birth (perinatal) and after birth (postnatal). The disability can affect you in a number of ways. If the body is paralyzed on one side, this is referred to as hemiplegia including spastic hemiparesis.
If only the lower limbs are affected, it is referred to as paraplegia including spastic paraparesis. If all four limbs are paralyzed, tetraplegia including spastic tetraparesis is diagnosed. Increased muscle tone often occurs in connection with involuntary incorrect movements, so-called athetoses.
Once an organism has infantile cerebral palsy, it can no longer be eliminated. For this reason, risk groups should be treated appropriately during pregnancy. For example, if an expectant mother consumes a lot of alcohol or various substances, it is important for professionals to ensure appropriate medical care and to act preventively, for example through education.
If infantile cerebral palsy nevertheless occurs, the balance between social and legal assistance (disabled person’s pass, remedies (medication), aids (devices), need for care, financial support) and psycho-social assistance (acceptance of the illness or disability, effects on the social life situation, effects on the family system, empowerment).
You can do that yourself
The top priority is to maintain mobility. This avoids pain and contractures (limited movement of joints). If affected limbs can be moved voluntarily, this mobility should also be promoted.
It is therefore important to carry out everyday activities such as dressing, washing and eating independently as much as possible. This is often only possible with tools or small changes. For example, a sufferer can pull up his pants but not button them. Pants with an elastic waistband, on the other hand, are easy to put on. Or: A fork with a thickened handle can be held and guided to the mouth much more securely than a normal fork if you have limited hand dexterity.
Another important point for maintaining mobility is self-stretching. Hypertonic muscles, ie muscles with increased tension, are stretched to prevent shortening and joint restrictions. For example, the healthy hand can straighten and flex the fingers of the affected hand. The movements during self-mobilization should be very slow and even, so the muscle tension can drop. A pleasantly warm bath or swinging in a hammock can also help to relax the muscles.