New guidelines for cerebral palsy recommend early neuroimaging tests


Screening for related disorders also recommended

ST. PAUL, MN - The American Academy of Neurology and the Child Neurology Society are recommending early neuroimaging tests on children with suspected cerebral palsy as well as early screening for related disorders in new practice guidelines published in the March 23 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

While it is not yet routine, the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is supported in the gathered evidence when cerebral palsy is suspected. Additionally, MRI is preferred over computerized tomography (CT). Metabolic and genetic studies need not be done routinely, according to the guideline, unless the cause of the brain's abnormality isn't evident from the MRI or by clinical history and examination. An early diagnosis helps the child's parent or caregiver and their physician understand the cause of the disorder, as well as make informed decisions on a treatment plan.

Evidence also suggests that children diagnosed with cerebral palsy should be routinely examined for other related disorders.

Stephen Ashwal, MD, Loma Linda University of Medicine, Loma Linda, CA, who was a principal author along with Barry Russman, MD, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR, said the guideline recommendations can be helpful to patients and their families. "Because children with cerebral palsy often have other conditions such as mental retardation, vision and hearing impairments, speech and language disorders and chewing and swallowing disorders, the initial assessment should include screening for these associated conditions," according to Ashwal.

Cerebral palsy, a disorder affecting posture and movement due to a lesion in the developing brain, is relatively common. It occurs in about 2 to 2.5 births per 1,000 worldwide. In the United States, about 10,000 babies are born annually with cerebral palsy.

Most children with cerebral palsy are diagnosed by the time they are two years of age. A non-progressive disease, most children with cerebral palsy improve as they get older.

Complete guidelines and summaries for physicians and patients and their families will be available for downloading on March 23 at

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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