Watching their child learn to move about, grab things, and play on their own are few of the greatest joys for a parent. If your child is unable to reach these milestones, it can cause immense distress. Cerebral Palsy is a neurological condition that inhibits movement and muscle development, and can affect a single limb, or even the entire body. Early diagnosis and intervention can go a long way in maximizing your child’s functionality and independence. Here, we offer an introduction to Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy and how it can be treated.
Understanding Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy refers to a group of neurological disorders that affect movement, muscle tone, coordination, and motor skills caused by damage or abnormalities in the developing brain. While the exact cause of Cerebral Palsy is often hard to pinpoint, trauma sustained during birth, genetic mutations, and infant infections can all be causes. Cerebral Palsy is non-progressive and has no ultimate cure. However, the right treatment goes a long way in managing symptoms and maximizing range of motion.
Cerebral Palsy can be categorized on the basis of the site of brain injury and it’s severity. Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy occurs when the injury causes the patient to lose voluntary control over the entire body. It is the most severe type of Cerebral Palsy, and patients usually have limited movement ability throughout their life. Because spasticity is one of the dominant symptoms of this type of Cerebral Palsy, it is also known as Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy.
Symptoms of Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy
The symptoms of Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy tend to be more severe than those of other types of Cerebral Palsy. Some of them can manifest as early as two or three months after birth, although it can be difficult to conclude on a diagnosis so soon. Signs that parents should keep an eye out for include:
- Retention of primitive reflexes past the appropriate age
- Unusual stiffness in the limbs
- Deformities such as an unusually short limb
- Inability to raise the head
- Poor feeding
- Poor coordination
- Reduced weight
As the child grows, the symptoms become more obvious, and can include:
- Muscle tightness
- Joint stiffness
- Rapid muscle contraction and release
- Poor balance
- Chronic pain
- Inability to walk or unusual gait
- Muscle tremors
- Cognitive disabilities
- Speech / language disabilities
- Sleep disorders
- Vision / hearing problems
Causes of Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy
Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy is the result of severe brain damage sustained during pregnancy, at birth, or shortly after birth. The damage can occur in either the motor cortex or in the pyramidal tracts that connect the motor cortex to the spinal cord. In many cases this is the result of genetic mutations, particularly if a close relative also has Cerebral Palsy. Other Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy causes and risk factors include:
- Holes or lesions in the white matter of the brain during weeks 26 – 34 of gestation
- Fetal strokes due to poorly formed blood vessels or blood clots in the placenta
- Exposure to toxins during pregnancy or after birth
- Loss of oxygen to the infant’s brain
- Premature birth
- Breech birth
- Incompatible blood type between the mother and fetus
- Head trauma shortly after birth
- Severe jaundice in the first few weeks after birth
Some of these can be avoided if doctors keep monitoring the expectant mother and treating any medical issues as soon as they arise.
Complications of Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy
While Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy is not fatal in itself, it comes with a variety of complications that can significantly affect overall health and may even be potentially life-threatening. Seizures commonly occur in children with Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, as do painful muscle contractures. Other complications include:
- Limb deformities: The constant pulling of spastic muscles on the bones and joints can permanently deform limbs over time
- Scoliosis: About a quarter of Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy develop a curvature of the spine or other spinal problems
- Lower limb and ankle deformities: Potential complications include conditions like ankle equinus, which limits ankle flexion
- Osteoporosis: Limited motor control and joint and muscle deformities can increase the risk of osteoporosis or osteoarthritis over time
- Cognitive disabilities: Given the severity of the brain injury, patients may have lifelong cognitive and learning disabilities
- Bladder / bowel disorders: Spastic Quadiplegic Cerebral Palsy patients are highly prone to constipation and / or bladder incontinence
- Malnutrition: Difficulty controlling the facial muscles can impede swallowing abilities, which can cause malnutrition due to insufficient food intake. It can also cause respiratory problems if the food goes down the wrong way.
Diagnosing Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy
The best way to diagnose Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy early is by taking your child for a developmental screening. The doctor will typically observe your child’s movements, with emphasis on their posture, muscle tone, and reflexes. They will inquire about symptom progression, and may run blood tests to rule out any other causes. The most common methods of diagnosis include a cranial ultrasound and an MRI. Given that the symptoms of Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy are highly pronounced, a diagnosis can usually be given within the first year of life.
Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy treatment
Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy is generally associated with a shorter lifespan and lower quality of life than other kinds of Cerebral Palsy. However, there are various treatment options that can keep the patient as mobile and healthy as possible. Stem Cell Therapy, Stem Cell Nutritive Therapy, and various medications have been demonstrated to improve symptoms to a large extent. Typically, doctors will draw up a multi-pronged treatment plan for Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy that includes:
- Physiotherapy: With an aim to help children with Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy be as mobile as possible, Physiotherapy involves various stretching and flexibility exercises to improve the range of motion, while minimizing pain. Older children may also benefit from strengthening exercises to target weak muscles and improve functionality. Therapists will typically introduce games and toys into the exercises to make it more fun for the child.
- Occupational Therapy: This focuses on enabling the child to complete daily activities on their own as much as possible. Therapists help the child enhance muscle control and coordination in their fingers and hands, so that they can perform tasks involving fine motor skills.
- Speech Therapy: This helps with oral articulation and muscle control to enable speech and ensure proper swallowing. The focus is on improving coordination in the mouth and tongue for safe eating and better pronunciation. Speech therapists also help children communicate through assistive devices if they cannot speak, which helps them function better at school and other places.
- Assistive devices: Children with Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy will typically require aids to move around, complete tasks, and communicate effectively. Motorised wheelchairs and communication devices are among the commonly prescribed items.
- Surgery: Targeted surgeries to correct dislocated joints, shortened muscles, or other deformities can reduce impairment for children with Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy.
- What is the most severe form of Cerebral Palsy?
The most severe form of Cerebral Palsy is Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, which affects the face, the trunk, and all four limbs.
- Can a person with Spastic Quadriplegia walk?
In general, patients with Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy are unable to walk. However, they may learn to navigate independently in a motorised wheelchair.
- What are the 5 types of Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy can be classified into 5 types, namely spastic, ataxic, hypotonic, athetoid, and mixed. Each of these can be further classified depending on how severe the symptoms are.
- What famous person has Cerebral Palsy?
Some famous people who have cerebral palsy include the Miss USA contestant Abbey Nicole Curran, the comedian Josh Blue, the artist Dan Keplinger, and the actor RJ Mitte.
- Do Cerebral Palsy affect intelligence?
About one in two people with Cerebral Palsy have an intellectual disability of some sort. The greater the severity of the Cerebral Palsy, the higher the chance of an intellectual disability.
- Can Cerebral Palsy affect the eyes?
Vision problems are quite common among children with Cerebral Palsy. Some of the problems that might occur include strabismus (turned eye), cataracts, amblyopia (lazy eye), and nystagmus (involuntary eye movements).
- Can someone with Cerebral Palsy drink alcohol?
Patients with Cerebral Palsy can occasionally drink alcohol just like anyone else. However, taking additional precautions to guard against losing balance or muscle spasms is advisable.
- Someone with Cerebral Palsy have a baby?
Typically, Cerebral Palsy does not affect the patient’s ability to have a baby. Infertility, if it occurs, is not a symptom of Cerebral Palsy.
- Is Cerebral Palsy mental retardation?
Some children with Cerebral Palsy have mental retardation. Generally, the more severe the Cerebral Palsy, the greater the retardation.
- Is Cerebral Palsy physical or mental?
Cerebral Palsy is a primarily physical condition that affects movement, posture, and muscle control. However, up to half of all children with Cerebral Palsy will experience some degree of mental impairment.
- At what age does Cerebral Palsy appear?
The average age for a formal cerebral palsy diagnosis is about two years. However, several symptoms can appear as early as a few months of age. The symptoms of Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, in particular, become prominent in the first few months.
- How can you tell if someone has Cerebral Palsy?
Signs that someone has Cerebral Palsy include abnormal gait or posture, shortened limbs, muscle spasms, slight limping, or continuous bending at the knees.
- Does CP get worse with age?
Cerebral Palsy is a non-progressive disease, which means that the severity does not change over time. However, additional complications may crop up as the patient grows older.
- Is Cerebral Palsy a form of autism?
While both Cerebral Palsy and Autism originate in the brain, Cerebral Palsy affects movement and muscle coordination while Autism affects social and behavioral abilities.
- What is Palsy called today?
Palsy is a blanket term for a category of diseases that affect voluntary movements, leading to tremors and / or stiffness.
- Is Cerebral Palsy curable?
Cerebral Palsy has no cure, although treatment and medication can keep the symptoms under check to a large degree.
- Is Palsy the same as paralysis?
Palsy refers to a variety of conditions that include paralysis, as well as weakness, and / or uncontrolled movements. However, paralysis specifically refers to the total loss of nerve function.
Life can be tough when living with Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, but treatment and assistive devices can make it much easier. As a parent, be sure to give your child plenty of love and support as they navigate this condition. With your care, as well as tailored Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy treatment, the child can reach their maximum potential.