Cerebral palsy is a condition in which “abnormal development of the brain or damage to the developing brain affects a child’s ability to control his or her muscles,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two different types of cerebral palsy, congenital cerebral palsy and acquired cerebral palsy both have their own sets of causes and risk factors. Congenital cerebral palsy accounts for most of the cerebral palsy cases in the United States.
Four common risk factors associated with congenital cerebral palsy, which is cerebral palsy caused by brain damage that occurred before an individual was born, are asphyxial birth events, inflammation, birth defects and poor fetal growth. A new study done by a group of researchers from the United States and Australia examined the extent to which these four risk factors contributed to cerebral palsy and infant death, according to a National Institutes of Health press release.
In the study, which is published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, the medical records of cerebral palsy patients and infants who died up to one month after birth were compared with the medical records of healthy children. The researchers had the goal of identifying how often the risk factors occurred in the different groups. They found that birth defects and poor fetal growth were the most common risk factors among cerebral palsy patients and the infant death cases. The researchers also found that “only birth defects or poor fetal growth predicted two types of movement problems associated with cerebral palsy: dyskinesia (uncontrollable writhing or jerky movements) and spastic quadriplegia (severe stiffness in the limbs),” according to HealthDay.
Although the study did not establish cause and effect relationships, the study can inform future research on the risk factors associated with cerebral palsy. Previous studies have focused on asphyxial birth events as part of the cause of cerebral palsy, but future research should concentrate more on poor fetal growth and birth defects, the authors of the study suggest.